The question is on sich in this sentence from Kafka's Der Verschollene.

Blick Karl zur Türe folgte, sah sich Green, obwohl man doch schon unwillkürlich sich den Blicken seines Gegenübers anzuschließen pflegt, auch nicht im geringsten nach Karl um, welchem in diesem Benehmen der Ausdruck einer Art Überzeugung Greens zu liegen schien, jeder, Karl für sich und Green für sich, solle hier mit seinen Fähigkeiten auszukommen versuchen, die notwendige gesellschaftliche Verbindung zwischen ihnen werde sich schon mit der Zeit durch den Sieg oder die Vernichtung eines von beiden herstellen.

Does it connect with anzuschließen or pflegt?

My confusion

I am having difficulty connecting it to either.

According to this dictionary entry, anschließen can be a reflexive verb. But when it does, it requires the preposition an to govern the object (the thing said to be followed). As in, "An den Vortrag schloss sich eine Diskussion an." In the Kafka sentence, however, there is no preposition before den Blicken. This seems to suggest that sich does not connect with anzuschließen.

According this, sich pflegen is to look after oneself (such as taking care of one's appearance). Nor is there any indication that it could take an infinitive phrase (such as anzuschließen in Kafka). Therefore, it does not seem feasible to connect sich to pflegen either.

What would have made sense to me is to see an an before den Blicken. Then, I would gladly have connected sich and anzuschließen together and let pflegen be a transitive verb occurring in an etwas zu tun pflegen (to be in the habit of something) construction.

  • 1
    "anschliessen" licences the "sich", while "pflegen" licences the "zu". The object of "anschliessen" is a dative and has no additional overt marker besides case marking. – Kilian Foth Oct 26 '15 at 8:24
  • @KilianFoth Thanks. Can we also replace "den Blicken" with "an die Blicke"? – Catomic Oct 26 '15 at 12:14
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    Not very well. "sich anschliessen + X (dative)" generally means "do the same thing as X", which fits the sense of the sentence. "sich anschliessen an X" means "follow X temporally" or "connect to X" (e.g. via power cable). Neither sense fits as well as the original construction (sense 1 fits approximately, since copying someone's behaviour does probably involve a small temporal delay, it's just not the focus of the construction). – Kilian Foth Oct 26 '15 at 12:18

It refers to "anschliessen". You can say "sich jemandem / etwas anschliessen", and here it refers to Blicke, and the "pflegt" refers to that previous "Blicke anschliessen" construct. "Anschliessen" has the "an" right there, no need to add another one.

"Man pflegt" is translated here as "customs / habit has it" or "It's common to..."; that is the 2nd meaning for "pflegen" in the link you cited.

If you take the original part

... obwohl man doch schon unwillkürlich sich den Blicken seines Gegenübers anzuschließen pflegt...

and simplify and rephrase it a bit, it may become clearer:

Man pflegt sich unwillkürlich den Blicken seines Gegenübers anzuschließen.

meaning "It is common to involuntarily look the same direction as the one you're talking to."

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