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何しろ買い物から帰ってきたら、出かける前に見ていた街とは別の光景が広がっていたというのである。その場にへたり込んでしまわないだけ、折紙はまだ幾分落ち着いているのかもしれなかった。

Hi. This quote is a flashback from a novel. When 折紙 returned home she found the whole street was on fire and so was her home. What is the function/meaning of the というのである here? I know it can mean “they said”. But in this case it obviously doesn’t mean that. Thank you.

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Interesting... I think it has 2 functions.
One is "hearsay". As you know, "...というのである" means "they said ..." as well as "it is said that...". So it implies that the writer didn't see this scene directly.

The other is, this may be more important though, to make "surprising" effect. Putting "のだ", "のである" at the last of sentence, the sentence sounds surprising. Coupled with "何しろ" the effect is emphasized.

別の光景が広がっていた

It sounds like just describing the scene.

別の光景が広がっていたという

It adds a meaning like "I didn't see directly but..."

別の光景が広がっていたというのだ

It adds a meaning like "surprisingly".

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