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I'm reading a novel by Franz Kafka called "die Verwandlung", and I need a help in translating a part of a sentence. Here is the sentence:

Sie wissen auch sehr wohl, daß der Reisende, der fast das ganze Jahr außerhalb des Geschäfts ist, so leicht ein Opfer von Klatschereien, Zufälligkeiten und grundlosen Beschwerden werden kann, gegen die sich zu wehren ihm ganz unmöglich ist, da er von ihnen meistens gar nichts erfährt und nur dann, wenn er erschöpft eine Reise beendet hat, zu Hause die schlimmen, auf ihre Ursachen hin nicht mehr zu durchschauenden Folgen am eigenen Leibe zu spüren bekommt.

The part I found difficult to understand is:

zu Hause die schlimmen, auf ihre Ursachen hin nicht mehr zu durchschauenden Folgen am eigenen Leibe zu spüren bekommt.

I have already checked the translation from an English edition (as below), but I couldn't relate it with the German part!

and gets to feel in his own body at home the nasty consequences, which can't be thoroughly explored back to their origins.

Are "schlimmen" and "auf ihre Ursachen hin nicht mehr zu durchschauenden" considered as adjectives to "Folgen" or there is a point I miss here?

  • @c.p. Thanks for the advice. I have already edited the question. – To Above Sep 27 '19 at 6:23
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    To close voters: This is neither a translation request nor something that could be answered by looking at a dictionary, thesaurus or conjugation table. – David Vogt Sep 27 '19 at 11:11
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Let's think about etwas zu spüren bekommen first. That is a fixed phrase you can find explained in better dictionaries as to feel the (full) force of something.

Er bekommt die Folgen zu spüren.

He feels the full force of the consequences.

He get to feel the full force of the consequences.

As usual in German, Präsens conveys both present and future.

(That is one of the seldom cases bekommen in German means a similar thing as to become in English, and just in this case, we translate it to get. Confusing.)


The part

die schlimmen, auf ihre Ursachen hin nicht mehr zu durchschauenden Folgen

is one huge accusative object to … zu spüren bekommt.

That zu+Partizip I construction is called Gerundiv (or Gerundivum, not: Gerundium) or modales Partizip (not: Modalpartikel) in German and means the same as a modal expression, in this case using können. The alternative is using a relative clause:

Er spürt die schlimmen Folgen, deren Ursachen er nicht mehr durchschauen kann.

Such relative clauses are pointing a finger to the explained fact, and Kafka doesn't like this. He just drops that information as he passes by, with no special emphasis.

You have to get used to such complicated objects, especially when reading literature, and in particular with Kafka.


EDIT: There is another question about auf ihre Ursachen hin which becomes deren Ursachen in my relative clause alternative.

This is another complication. The literal relative clause had to be

Er spürt die schlimmen Folgen, die er nicht mehr auf ihre Ursachen hin durchschauen kann.

But no one but Kafka writes or even talks like this. It's obvious durchschauen relates both to die schlimmen Folgen and ihre Ursachen.

Er durchschaut die Folgen auf ihre Ursachen hin. (super-exact kafkaesk style)

Er durchschaut die Ursachen. (preferred)

  • But what about auf ... hin purpose here? Does the sentence have the same meaning with/without them? (Since you neglected them when you reformulated the sentence with a relative clause so I thought that they didn't affect the main meaning.) – To Above Sep 27 '19 at 12:01
  • This is another complication. I made an edit. – Janka Sep 27 '19 at 12:59
  • Now everything is clear. I actually noticed through reading that Kafka had a special style. And here we can see a good example. Thank you so much for clarification. – To Above Sep 27 '19 at 13:27
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Yes, "schlimmen" and "zu durchschauenden" are two parallel adjectives, both modifying "Folgen". The difficulty may be with the complicated construction involving "durchschauen".

The construction "zu <verb>ende <noun>" corresponds to "a <noun> which is hard to <verb>". "Nicht mehr" is a two-word adverbial expression modifying "durchschauende" - this may be difficult because the corresponding English construction cannot take this kind of modifier. Finally, "auf ... hin" is a circumposition: it works like a preposition but uses function words on both sides of the argument. All this makes for a dense construction that is hard to parse for a language learner (and not exactly easy for native speakers either).

  • I feel like some error slipped in while writing this answer. While schwer zu durchschauende Folgen translates as consequences that are hard to understand, the gerundive zu durchschauende Folgen by itself has to be translated as consequences that can or have to be understood. – David Vogt Sep 27 '19 at 10:57

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