I'm trying to understand the below phrase, but having difficult with the "愛の響き合い" and "繋ぎ合わせる" portions: (See here for more context if needed, it's the first paragraph)

皆、朝日を望みながら、必死で働いている. 生まれては消える、そのくり返しを、愛の響き合い繋ぎ合わせながら。

"愛の響き合い" seems to literally be "the resonance of love", but from what I gather this is not a common expression, and I'm having trouble grasping what it means. Could it be referring to relationships?

Also, the use of the verb "繋ぎ合わせる" is a little confusing here. My guess is it is close to something like "eking out a living" (similar to the phrase 命をつなぐ). If someone could confirm that, I'd appreciate it.

While I am talking about this phrase, a final question relates to the use of くりかえし. It clearly seems to be referring to the cycle of birth and death (lit: 'being born and disappearing'). However, do you feel this implies the same 'individuals' are being (reborn), or that each 'individual' is only living one life.

In case the context matters, the setting of this story is where 'letters' live in a city that is in the the mind of a fiction author.

UPDATE: My eventual goal is to translate this, however I am not asking for someone to do it for me. Nonetheless, I will give my best guess so far (focusing on the second sentence above) as it may indicate whether I am in the right direction or not.

They all eked out a living as part of the endless cycle of birth and death, with only love to help them through it.

UPDATE:

I have long back posted my translation for this work online (with the full permission of the author). If you are interested in reading it to see how I rendered this portion, you can check it out here.

I'm glad I left this open since it generated some interesting discussion, but I think it's time I close it now. I'll mark the latest answer from Kana since I think it is the most thorough and provides the most insight.

After reading some of these newer responses I might have changed my translation, but I will leave it as-is, at least for now.

UPDATE2:

So to not make people go to my site I will just post my translation of the first paragraph of the story, and I have italicized the sentence in question.

Everyone worked throughout the night. This was only natural, since in this place–a city without a sun–there was nothing but night. In Idea City, the morning held off until the very last day: the day the world ended. They all worked themselves to the bone in the hope of one day seeing the morning sun, eking out a living as part of the endless cycle of birth and death, bound together by love. But just as this thought came to mind, the ground beneath me lurched.

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    My impression is not far from yours, though after all it says "Idea City is an unstable world a poor writer created in his mind. Residents work so hard that his books sell as many as possible. It's a city of 文字たち (see how 文字 is personified). Any words can live there". – user4092 Sep 3 '17 at 13:24
up vote 3 down vote accepted

First, these sentences are all metaphors, the unique expression of the author. Especially in novels, it’s one of the common structures to put a metaphor at first to let readers figure out what it actually implies by reading through the following chapters.

"愛の響き合い"
愛=love, 響く= this word has several meanings; echo/resound/touching (it can refer to echoes of physical sounds as well as something emotional that impacts your mind), 合う=to each other.
So, it literally indicates something like "Echoes of love are touching everyone’s mind to each other."
The author didn’t make it clear what kind of love it was, though, you could guess that it refers to love between "letters". The reason for it is that the subject of the first sentence is "皆(=letters)", and it refers to hard everyday lives of "letters".

"そのくり返し"
It literally can be interpreted as "くり返し(the cycle)" of "その(it)". So, you get to figure out what the "その(it)" refers to.

"生まれては消える" works as an adjective which modifies "その繰り返し". You could guess "そのくり返し" indicates something is born and dies repeatedly.

"(その) It" seems to be referring to something everyone builds up through day-to-day hard work (it can be guessed from the former context).

→ 皆、朝を望みながら必死で働いてる。(でも、必死に働いて作り上げたものは)生まれては消えてのくり返しだ。(それでも、)愛の響き合いでなんとかそれ(生まれては消えてをくり返す何か)を繋ぎ合せている。

"繋ぎ合わせる"
It literally means "connect to each other".
This part implies "connect something, which is born and dies repeatedly, to each other".

→ 愛の響き合いでなんとかそれ(生まれては消えてをくり返す何か)を繋ぎ合せている。
Readers have no idea what the "それ(Smth repeats the life cycle)" is at this moment. The author didn’t make it clear intentionally so that readers can enjoy figuring out through further readings.

Considering the following paragraphs, "生まれては消える何か" clearly refers to "ideas built by words (言葉たち) which are created and destroyed by 'erasers' over and over again."

Words that live in the idea city work hard desperately, but the ideas they build are destroyed by "erasers". The ideas repeat this life cycle, but "words" are trying to connect these ideas with love.
"愛-Love" among "words" is illustrated by ゆらぎ子 and 絶対夫. However, it seems to be referring to the general love of every word, not only these two’s relationship (when considering "愛を繋ぎ合わせながら").

http://inubousaki-ikkai.kir.jp/denshokai/rippoutaitoshi/

  • Thanks for the great answer! I added some comments including my translation of this line, and marked your answer as the best. – Locksleyu Oct 29 at 15:18
  • Thank you for the warm message! I hope I could help your work a little bit. I really enjoyed reading your whole translation of the chapter, by the way. I believe it means a lot for many English speakers that you introduced this interesting Japanese novel. – Kana Oct 30 at 21:05

I'm going to see how much I can write out without giving it away, so it will be pretty short.

愛の響き合い

This is definitely uncommon, mainly because common Japanese does not allow for a flexible expression of emotions the way English does (it is from a high-context culture after all), and also because "愛" is really not used that much in everyday speech. For "響き合い", I would say resonance or harmony, interpreted as interactions (see: "harmony" in music) based on a shared love, is a good start for understanding the phrase.

繋ぎ合わせる

Preface: since we are talking about Japanese, where each letter carries meaning, we should think in terms of words in English.

Put literally this means, "To make connect to each other", right? Well think about what happens when words are connected. When you connect words, you create meaning, intent, all sorts of communication which we take for granted every day. I think you should try this perspective when reading the sentence, as I believe that this sentence is a metaphor for real life from beginning to end. To that end, you should also consider why "Connecting together the repeated cycles of life and death" is important (くりかえしを、繋ぎ合わせる).

Extra Point

"働いている" probably carries a double meaning in this sentence. Specifically because we are talking about a subject that only exists to convey meaning, it probably has a deeper message than just "to work". I think a contextually complete translation of this sentence will look very different from the original Japanese. Look at the letters as an existence which only begin to carry meaning when they work together, and I think that's where your answer is. Also, try restructuring the sentence to "textbook Japanese" (put the ながら clause before the first sentence), and see if that helps you think about how to translate it.

Let me know what you think!

Edit: Added more to the answer and fixed grammar

As you say, this is an unusual choice of words, which is presumably designed to make you feel like the phrase has a deep meaning and make you think.

I'd say 繋ぎ合わせる means "weave them together." The original page you linked to is gone, so I can't see the context of this paragraph. "Eke out" feels like you are stretching something, and I personally don't feel that nuance in this word, though other parts of the sentence, like 必死で carries that meaning.

As for くり返し, I agree with you that it refers to the cycle of birth and death, but given that the subject of the sentence is , it's pretty referring to people coming and going, and I don't think there's anything particularly here that makes you feel like individuals are reborn.

Adding it all up, for me the overall picture is that of a tapestry. Each of us/them are mortal, but they connect together through reciprocal love (parents and child, neighbors to neighbors, man to woman, etc), and together we/they weave a bigger story that carries on. It's a beautiful emotionally charged picture, albeit a common one.

This is a wrong Japanese. I as a native Japanese can't understand the phrase.

カクヨム(https://kakuyomu.jp) is a site which anyone can write novels, poets or essays. I think this novel was written by a young person. This text isn't nice to learn Japanese.

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    The author has written several novels of various lengths, and has some published on Amazon Japan (with varying reviews). I agree that the Japanese is "non-standard" but I am pretty sure some of this was intentional for artistic effect. I am not reading these novels to "learn Japanese", but rather as a translation exercise and also to provide interesting reading to English readers who would otherwise not have access to these works. Regardless of whether the author's style is "correct" or not, I think the world he presents here is unique. – Locksleyu Sep 5 '17 at 18:47

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