4

I was reading Kafka's "Josefine, die Sängerin oder das Volk der Mäuse" and came across this sentence:

Aber sie hat keine Feinde, und selbst wenn mancher hie und da Einwände gegen sie hat, dieser Kampf belustigt niemanden. Schon deshalb nicht, weil sich hier das Volk in seiner kalten richterlichen Haltung zeigt, wie man es sonst bei uns nur sehr selten sieht. (Wikisource)

I understand the weil clause well enough, but the "Schon deshalb nicht, weil..." construction as a whole has me confused about its logic. Willa and Edwin Muir translate it as "Just because of the fact that..." and similarly when I put it in DeepL or Google Translate, it's translated as "If only because..." I understand that the meaning of schon in this context is similar to that of bloß and the construction deshalb, weil essentially means "That's because..." or "For the reason that..." So Schon deshalb, weil... alone would also mean "Just because of the fact that..." and DeepL also translates that as "If only because..." But what is the function of nicht? How does this whole construction make sense?

2
  • 4
    It only makes sense when taking into consideration the preceding sentence, which must contain some sort of negation that is echoed by nicht. – David Vogt Feb 6 at 14:46
  • The preceding sentence is "Aber sie hat keine Feinde, und selbst wenn mancher hie und da Einwände gegen sie hat, dieser Kampf belustigt niemanden." So maybe "nicht" is "echoing," like you say, the fact that she has no enemies or maybe that the struggle amuses no one. But I'm unaware of this usage of "nicht" as echoing a negation. Could you elaborate? – gast Feb 6 at 14:59
6

The relevant part of the quote from Josefine, die Sängerin oder Das Volk der Mäuse or Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk is

(...) dieser Kampf belustigt niemanden. Schon deshalb nicht, weil (...).

As David Vogt noted in the comments to your question, the phrase "schon deshalb nicht" refers back to the previous sentence. You could combine the two and get

Aber dieser Kampf belustigt schon deshalb niemanden, weil (...).

So the combined sentence describes the main reason why this fight doesn't amuse anybody. Even if there were no other reasons, because of that this fight still wouldn't amuse anybody.

An English equivalent would be

But this fight amuses nobody, if only for the reason that (...).

In German, in contrast to English, the negation of the first sentence gets "repeated" in the second one. A assertive example could be something like

Aber dieser Kampf belustigt die Zuschauer. Schon deshalb, weil die Kombattanten mehr über die eigenen Füße stolpern als dass sie den Gegner treffen.

2
  • 1
    Wouldn't it make more sense to have the phrase in question refer back to dieser Kampf belustigt niemanden? – David Vogt Feb 6 at 18:08
  • @DavidVogt You're right, thanks. I edited the answer accordingly. It doesn't change the basic principle, but it might actually be easier to understand like this. – Henning Kockerbeck Feb 6 at 19:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.