文章标题：《A view of China, from the back — and front — seat of a cab》 （Washington Post） 《从出租车的后座和前座看中国》 (美 华盛顿邮报)
It’s often said that only a lazy journalist reports a story through the eyes of a cabdriver. That may be true everywhere but in China. Here, where a century’s worth of development has been squeezed into decades, cabbies have had a front-row seat to the country’s dizzying changes, and have some of the best anecdotes and the most interesting views of the country’s transformation. Wherever in China I am, I always look for drivers whose ID numbers indicate they’ve been on the road at least a decade; they are always worth striking up a conversation with.
In “The Shanghai Free Taxi,” NPR correspondent Frank Langfitt puts a new twist on the cabbie narrative: He becomes the driver. Langfitt rents, and later buys, a car to drive people around Shanghai and further afield, in exchange only for their stories. (This arrangement came about after he tried to become a registered cabdriver but local taxi companies blocked him.) He meets and follows a range of people, weaving their perspectives into his own commentary on China’s high-speed trajectory. The result is an engaging and dynamic narrative that offers readers an unusual perspective on modern China.
Langfitt shows us a Shanghai rich in contrasts — from glitzy law offices and Maserati dealerships to country migrants living in shoe-box-size apartments. Yet Langfitt’s passengers have one thing in common: a desire to improve their lot in life. “Now that many Chinese people had at least some wealth,” he observes, “they wanted more, not just materially but spiritually and psychologically.”
Langfitt向我们展示了上海丰富的对比 – 从炫目的律师事务所和玛莎拉蒂经销商到生活在鞋盒大小公寓的乡村移民。然而，Langfitt的乘客有一个共同点：希望改善他们的生活。“现在许多中国人至少拥有一些财富，”他说，“他们想要更多，不仅仅是物质上，而是精神上和心理上。”
One of his earliest passengers, a pajama salesman named Chen, is a case in point. He came to Shanghai from the provinces to earn money, belongs to an underground Christian church and later moves to America to give his daughter a less-pressured education. Langfitt also interacts with those less well-off who are seeking meaning, such as Max, a migrant who cuts the hair of elderly shut-ins for free, and Sarah, a cleaner who struggles in the midst of the big city’s inequities.
The most dramatic story is that of Crystal, a Chinese American who enlists Langfitt’s help to track down her sister, Winnie, who has gone missing in the hinterlands of southwestern China. A former waitress turned prostitute and mistress, Winnie escaped with her savings to become a landlady, then married a rubber-tree tapper near the Laos border who became abusive, before she disappeared without a trace. Crystal fears she has been killed or trafficked, and with Langfitt, she drives to follow the clues of Winnie’s last movements, uncovering secret affairs, police mismanagement and intrigue. Although we never meet Winnie or discover the truth, her tale — including its lack of resolution — is a haunting fable of one person’s dreams lost in an uncaring society.
最具戏剧性的故事是水晶，一位华裔美国人，他邀请朗菲特帮助追踪她在中国西南腹地失踪的姐姐温妮。一位前女服务员变成了妓女和情妇，温妮花光了她的积蓄成为女房东，然后在老挝边境附近嫁给了一个橡皮树工作者，她变得爱辱骂，然后她消失得无影无踪。水晶担心她已经被杀或被贩卖，并且与Langfitt一起，她开始追随小熊最后一次行动的线索，发现秘密事件，警察管理不善和阴谋。虽然我们从未见过温妮或发现真相，但她的故事 – 包括缺乏解决方案 – 是一个令人难忘的寓言，一个人在一个漠不关心的社会中失去了梦想。
At times, the free taxi rides — some of which formed a series of Langfitt’s radio stories for NPR from 2014 to 2016 — feel like a thin conceptual thread to hold the book together. Also, there are too many familiar stories of iconoclastic rebels and a slight overproportion of well-to-do, English-speaking characters, given the milieu of residents in commercialized, cab-hailing Shanghai. By driving farther off the beaten track to pick up passengers, Langfitt might have found more characters whose perspectives truly surprise us.
有时，免费的出租车 – 其中一些在2014年至2016年期间为NPR形成了一系列Langfitt的广播故事 – 感觉就像一个薄薄的概念线将这本书结合在一起。考虑到商业化，出租车上海居民的环境，有太多熟悉的反传统叛乱分子和略微过分的富裕英语人物故事。通过远离人迹罕至的地方来接载乘客，Langfitt可能会找到更多角色，他们的观点真的让我们感到惊讶。
While this cabbie was running to stand still, all around him in China are the trajectories of lives in motion — some racing ahead, others falling under the wheels, as Winnie did. “The Shanghai Free Taxi” offers us a small slice of those stories, in a country with a population just like its cab passengers: going places.