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From the Frankfurter Allgemeine:

Wer Weltliteratur ernst nimmt, weiß: Sie gut zu übersetzen ist schwer, es bleiben zu lassen hilft aber nicht weiter.

What does es refer to here? It cannot refer to Weltliteratur (one would need to use sie, and the author did use that in "Sie gut zu übersetzen ist schwer"). It does not refer to the whole sentence "Wer Weltliteratur ernst nimmt, weiß" either.

7

It refers to "(sie gut zu) übersetzen".

Consider "Sie gut zu übersetzen" as subject of the sentence:

"Sie gut zu übersetzen ist schwer."

Once you replace the subject with with the pronoun "das" or "es",

"Das/es ist schwer."

it's easy to see that the gender of "es" matches:

"Es ist schwer, es bleibenzulassen hilft aber nicht weiter."

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