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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.

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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:

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

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?!

Notes:

  1. 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.

  2. For more examples (and a a more concise explanation) look here

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