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(Background: similar circumstances as this question; the speaker is a sleazy low-level gangster commenting on sex workers in his employ.)

「駄目な人間は、駄目なものだな。まったく、愛想が尽きるよ。ほかじゃ、鼻もひっかけないような大年増に、きまりの組合費だけで、シマを分けてやっているんだぜ。せっせと稼いで、足を洗うことでも考えたらどうなんだい。いまさら、ヒモに可愛がってもらえるような柄かって…」

Breaking it up by sentence, here's what I've got (subject/topic marked in bold):

  1. 駄目な人間は、駄目なものだな -- Hypothetical/general about people on the whole.
  2. まったく、愛想が尽きるよ -- The speaker complains that his incredible benevolence is wasted on such human failures.
  3. ほかじゃ、鼻もひっかけないような大年増に、きまりの組合費だけで、シマを分けてやっているんだぜ -- ?? I think the speaker is saying, "If things were different, they'd [the sex workers would] be under some matron who'd go easy on them and only take the [mob] family cut off the top, and let 'em split the rest."
  4. せっせと稼いで、足を洗うことでも考えたらどうなんだい -- ?? "How about they [the sex workers] put their backs into making money and think about getting out of this [criminal] trade, huh?"
  5. いまさら、ヒモに可愛がってもらえるような柄かって… -- ?? "[do the sex workers actually] Think they've still got what it takes to get favors from a pimp anymore?"

5a. Alternatively, "Do I look like the kind of pimp they can squeeze favors out of?"

I'm mostly unclear on 3 and 5.

The question is, how do you know (especially for the native speakers) what the subject of the sentence is as it changes from sentence to sentence? Initially what threw me for a loop was the cascade of increasingly unclear clauses (the speaker is monologuing, which doesn't help). (I've seen this before, but never so intensely as here in the efficient prose of 阿部公房)

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Wow, these sentences are sleazy! It's almost worse in English. –  Trevor Alexander Jan 4 at 11:01

1 Answer 1

up vote 1 down vote accepted

1) General observation. "People ain't no good if they ain't no good."

2) OK, except it does not say "incredible" in the original.

3) TBH, I do not know if you attempted at an extremely free translation or you simply did not understand the original. It is difficult to comment on something like this (particularly, if the former is the case).

My own TL (mostly literal) : "I'm talking about the old broads nobody else would take no notice of and I even give them a territory for the minimum union dues!"

4) Excellent.

5) Great.

My answer to your question at the bottom would be "context and collocation" . You would just have to read extensively and become able to predict what words or phrases are likely to follow.

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How did you know to assume the speaker is still the subject of 3? Now that you tell me it makes sense, but I still don't know why (especially because it changes from 3-4 without warning). Also, 5a is incorrect parsing, right? –  Trevor Alexander Jan 4 at 20:04
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You know it from the verb part 分けてやっているんだぜ, or more specifically, just やっている AND the hidden subject of the preceding sentence. If he subject changes in the following sentence and that sentence is much longer, the new subject will usually be mentioned. If not mentioned, the longer sentence should contain enough context for the reader to know who the subject is. The "flow"is important in this. –  非回答者 Jan 4 at 22:45
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By the time the reader has read 3, he wll know who is the one that should せっせと稼ぐ and 足を洗う. Also, the どうなんだい part tells you that the speaker is making a personal suggestion to the people in question. Again, that is so much context to go by. –  非回答者 Jan 4 at 22:51
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And yes, 5a is incorrect parsing as far as grammar, but as free TL, it makes good sense. –  非回答者 Jan 4 at 22:54

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