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I'm not understanding this use of the ~さえ~ば pattern. This example comes from a manga.

両親のもとへ 帰ってからの生活は 拍子抜けするほど 普通だった

母が仕事優先で 家庭を省みないことも

父が体裁さえ 保てていれば 家庭に無関心なことも

今のわたしには 割り切れるように なっていて

昔みたいに 寂しさや息苦しさは もう感じなかった

My interpretation of the third part is like "If my dad would save face, he would be indifferent to family matters", but that doesn't make sense. It seems opposite that being indifferent to family would save face.

Does this pattern not work how I think it does? Or maybe am I misinterpreting 体裁を保つ?

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  • It is not well-formed and punctuation is not good either. Where was it extracted from? 体裁さえ保てていれば家庭に無関心でも許されると父が思っていることも今のわたしには割り切れる or 父が家庭に無関心なことも(父が何らかの方法で私たちのために)体裁を保ってさえいてくれれば今のわたしには割り切れる would make sense. – kaboc Apr 6 '20 at 16:47
  • @kaboc This is from a published manga, so I assume the sentences are well-formed. I've added a couple more surrounding lines just in case I was leaving out something important. – Sam Apr 6 '20 at 17:14
  • I doubt that such a confusing sentence is well-formed. I've somehow understood the meaning, so I'll write it as a separate answer. – kaboc Apr 6 '20 at 18:34
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「~さえ~ば」 is used to express a sufficient condition: "as long as ...", and 「体裁を保つ」 means "to keep up appearances", "to maintain a good public image", "save face", etc.

The line 「父が体裁さえ保てていれば家庭に無関心なこと」 more or less translates to:

(that) as long as he can keep up his appearances, my dad doesn't care anything about family matters

The translation might be potentially a little bit ambiguous as to its meaning, but the import of the line is not that the dad's neglect of his family enables him to save his face (that would make no apparent sense, as you observed), but that he is a usually absentee father (perhaps with a high-profile job) who would decide to get involved in family matters only if not doing so would jeopardize his precious, all-important public image. (Like paying a store manager a fair sum so that word doesn't get out that his son shoplifted a magazine or something. Or more subtle things like playing a good, hands-on father while people are watching -- it's a pretty common trope in fiction, though I'm sure there are a lot of instances in real-life too.)

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It seems the author of the manga omitted too much and failed to convey the meaning properly. Below is my guess.


I think that 体裁 there is not 父の体裁 but 家庭の体裁.

「母が仕事優先で家庭を省みないこと」も
父が家庭の体裁さえ保てていれば良いという程に家庭に無関心であること」も
今のわたしには割り切れるようになっている

The speaker's father is indifferent to his family, to the extent that he thinks it is alright as long as the family looks happy at least to others even if it is actually almost broken.

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