I'm trying to understand this sentence:


This is the given translation:

His thin, pale neck disappeared into his disheveled hair, and his enormous ears almost seemed to be the end of it - the flesh branching, bursting abruptly out from either side of his head. Looking at those ears, she felt the loneliness of morning

I found that 「侘しさ」 can mean "loneliness", but I'm finding very difficult to understand it: I think I finally got the hang of the general structure, but I'm struggling with 「侘しさがとまっている」, which is translated "felt the loneliness", and with the fact that the original sentence doesn't say anything about the character looking at the man's ear. Also, I don't really see "seemed to be the end of it" in the original text, I'm not sure if 「飛び出す」 has that kind of implications.

This is my understanding: the original sentence is less literal, 「とまる」 is 「泊まる」, and the meaning is something like (in a bit broken English, but I'm trying to translate every bit as I understand it), "His thin and pale neck disappeared in his hair, and seemed to split from both sides of his head into his ears, which sprung suddenly; in those ears there was the morning's loneliness".

Can 「泊まる」 be used figuratively? Did I understand that part?

1 Answer 1


If I were to assign a kanji to this とまる, I would choose 留まる (although 止まる is not incorrect). とまる has several meanings, but here it is close to "to perch" in the sense of "to sit/stay/rest temporarily on a small object". For example you can say 小鳥が電線に留まっている. This type of とまる is normally used with a bird or an insect as its subject, but here it is used with 侘しさ, which is a figurative usage unique to this sentence. The literal translation is "(the atmosphere of) morning wabi is sitting (around his ears)", but the translator rephrased it drastically because this was far from intuitive (even to native Japanese speakers).

It depends on the context, but "loneliness" may not be the best translation for 朝の侘しさ. If you are new to this word, please read some article on wabi-sabi for the connotation of this 侘しさ.

泊まる only means "to stay at night (at a hotel, etc)" or "(for a ship) to rest at anchor", and this has to be strictly distinguished from other types of とまる (i.e., 止まる/留まる/停まる which can be used interchangeably to some extent).

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