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From Hesse's Der Steppenwolf:

So etwa war mein Eindruck, und er wäre kein guter gewesen, wenn er nicht durch allerlei kleine Züge durchkreuzt und korrigiert worden wäre.

This sentence is referring to the narrator's impression of the 'Steppenwolf'.

Are the Züge in the sense of pen marks, which have 'durchkreuzt und korrigiert' the narrator's written description of the man? If so, why would this have a negative effect on the way the Steppenwolf appears in this description ('er wäre kein guter gewesen, wenn...')? Or is it something else entirely?

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    Better think of chess or game moves. – πάντα ῥεῖ Aug 21 at 12:09
  • Could you elaborate, please? – JThistle Aug 21 at 12:10
  • Well, moves of the person in question (the Steppenwolf). Also possible meaning is traits (of character). – πάντα ῥεῖ Aug 21 at 12:12
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    I think "Züge" means in this context: im Sinn von "Wesenszug" (characteristic trait), "Verhaltensweisen" (behavior, manner) - like Steppenwolf acted in the past. And these makes the narrator change his mind about this man. – TylwythTag-VIE Aug 21 at 12:39
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An english translation of the book offers this translation: "Such more or less was my impression, and it would certainly not have been a good one if it had not been revised and corrected by many small instances."

I think that Züge in the German original can be interpreted as moves as in moves in a game of chess.

Alternatively, after reading more context, I think it might also mean Charakterzüge (traits) as he is talking about a man and his impression of him.

Actually, I am now quite convinced that it is Züge as in ziehen (to pull), meaning small instances pulling on his opinion of this man, like small forces acting on an object. However, other translations seem to interpet it as "traits", maybe even as figurative pen strokes.

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  • Aha, thank you, the meaning of it has just clicked. – JThistle Aug 21 at 12:15
  • I agree that it probably means "Spielzüge" as in Chess or similar games. – ammoQ Aug 21 at 12:19
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    @JThistle Please check my latest edit. I think I was mistaken. – JMC Aug 21 at 12:23
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    I think the translator used "instances" for "Züge" in the sense of "Gelegenheiten", as like as "several opportunities". As like as described in my comment above (sorry for repetition): im Sinn von "an den Tag gelegter Wesenszug" (shown characteristic traits in the past), "Verhaltensweisen" (behavior, manner) - like Steppenwolf acted in the past. And these makes the narrator change his mind about this man. – TylwythTag-VIE Aug 21 at 13:16

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