show how the unknown, how the projection of a soul .., may often play 'their' part

< Previous | Next >

RockNote

Member
Danish
In his Preface, "written twenty years after the novel," Huysmans writes:

"In these few pages I have, up to now, been discussing Against Nature mainly from the point of view of literature and art. At this point it behoves me to consider it from the perspective of Grace, and to show how the unknown, how the projection of a soul devoid of self-knowledge, may often play their part in the making of a book." (Oxford, 1998. Tr. Margaret Mauldon. p. 194)

What does "their" refer to? (Cf. "their part".) The unknown + a soul devoid of self-knowledge? But isn't the latter an apposition to the former?
 
  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, I agree, Rocknote. It's very unhappy.

    When you use apposition, you need to avoid pronouns like this, because one thing twice stated can sound like two things: it sounds wrong and they is inaccurate.

    The translator or her editor should have spotted this.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I can see why you think "the unknown" and "the soul devoid of self-knowledge" are in apposition. Because of syntax, I would think so too. But are 'the unknown' and 'the soul devoid of knowledge' the same thing? They seem different. I think the commas may not indicate apposition, but a list with the conjunction omitted, as in this example:
    He missed his family, his pets, and he could hardly wait to go home.

    Cross-posted with Thomas Tompion. :)
     

    RockNote

    Member
    Danish
    Thank you both very much for your quick and precise replies. What you suggest, Cagey, makes sense to me. I believe you have solved the puzzle. However, not only syntax, but just as much semantics, gave me the impression that we were here dealing with an apposition - as both expressions hinge on the negative. What is "the unknown"? - we don't know! And "a soul devoid of self-knowledge" is characterized by just the same feature: a lack of knowledge. One blank after another, hence an apposition also from a semantic standpoint. Or so I thought.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top