I was reading The Tatami Galaxy, and I came across the following sentence: うら若き乙女ならばともかく、二十歳過ぎたむさ苦しい男を誰が抱きしめてやりたいものか。[pg.295] I know ~ともかく means "leaving aside", "never mind X,..." But I'm having trouble making sense of it in this sentence.
There's certainly something to be said for writting down your ideas. half way through wrriting my question the lightbulb came on!
Since I didn't find anything on ~ならばともかく on the exchange, I figured I would post my answer for the use of the community.
First things first, this ~ならばともかく is equivalent to ～ならともかく (much in the same way ならば・なら are the same thing). I guess it has more of the archaic/high-flown flavor "watakushi" (the main character of the Tatami Galaxy) is known for. Now, this ~ならともかく is a bit different from regular old ~ともかく. It also makes a contrast, but in the following way :
Noun1ならともかく、Noun2 + Verb
While Noun1 might be/do/go (for)/etc, Noun2 + Verb
1 Verb is in the negative (for what I've seen)
2 Verb determines the meaning of both parts of the sentence.
This is a bit abstract, so let's parse the passage in the question to gorund it:
So, the verb here is 抱きしめる [to hug]. The negative sense is given by the construction ～ものか. The verb applies to both, parts of the sentence (what's before and after ~ならばともかく）, with the idea that it applies to the former, but not the latter. Finally, we get:
While it might be possible to embrace a fresh, young maiden, who could ever want to embrace a filthy twentysomething?!
The thing that threw me off, is that in this case what's being opposed is the object of the verb, not the Subject . I'm not 100% sure of this, but the alternative reading seems a bit contradictory ("While a fresh young maiden might want to, who [else?] could ever want to embrace a filthy twentysomething"). If I'm wrong here, I'd love to know why.
For more examples (and a a more concise explanation) look here