English Structures Making Your Reading Comprehension Diffi cult in Demian
English Structures Making Your Reading Comprehension Diffi cult in Demian
  • 경남타임즈(경남대학교)
  • 승인 2024.03.22 16:37
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By Han Hak-sun

Professor of the Department of English Education


 Demian is a novel written by the German author Hermann Hesse. It was first published in 1919. The story is set in Germany in the early 20th century and deals with the life of protagonist, Emil Sinclair, while he is navigating his journey from childhood to adulthood. The novel begins with Emil Sinclair narrating his childhood and adolescence, focusing on his experiences of inner conflict and spiritual awakening. He feels torn between the conventional values of his bourgeois upbringing and the allure of a more unconventional, rebellious path. Emil’s life takes a significant turn when he encounters a mysterious and enigmatic classmate named Max Demian. Demian becomes Emil’s mentor and guide, introducing him to alternative ways of thinking and encouraging him to embrace his true self. Under Demian's influence, Emil begins to question societal norms and explore his own desires and beliefs.

 In Korea, Damian has long been recognized as a must-read for teenagers. And there are many Damian translations. However, in fact, it is too much to say that teenagers can fully understand the book while reading the translated version. This is because the translated version does not fully convey the meaning of the original language, and the meaning can be somewhat distorted depending on the translator. In addition, it is almost impossible for teenagers to enjoy Damian in German in Korean society, where there are not many schools with German as a second language. Therefore, it is recommended to read the one translated into English to enjoy the feelings delivered by the book. However, English translation is also not easy. This is because there are a lot of difficult structures and grammars, such as inversion structure, omission structure, relative adverbs, relative pronouns, and participial construction, which must be included in order for the translator to fully reflect the author's intention in the original text.

 In December 2023, I published a guidebook that focuses on introduction and explanation of difficult and ambiguous structures and grammars, and difficult vocabulary, to help teenagers easily access Demian written in English. In this column, I would like to introduce sentences with those structures and grammars with explanations for KT readers.


Sentences with Inversion Structure

  1. Never in my life had I felt so distressed, never had I felt more hopeless, more enslaved. (Inversion of the negative adverb: 1, 2, 3, 4)
  2. Never before had Pistorius said anything to me that had touched me as deeply as this.
  3. Nowhere as in this exercise can we discover so easily and simply to what extent we are creative, to what extent our soul partakes of the constant creation of the world.
  4. Rarely did I have any money, at most a five- or ten-pfennig piece (which was) stolen from the kitchen table when Lina had left the shopping basket lying around.
  5. Only gradually and unconsciously did this very intimate image become linked with the hint about the God I was to search for. (Inversion of only plus adverb: 5, 6)
  6. Only now did I realize how horribly alone I had been with my secret for weeks on end.
  7. Only when I found myself sitting in front of you did I realize that my wish was only half fulfilled and that my sole aim was to sit next to you. (Inversion of only plus conjunction)
  8. Not until I was at home and sat in my little room after supper did it occur to me that I had not heard anything about either Abraxas or Pistorius. (Inversion of the negative conjunction)
  9. A person can neither think what he wants to nor can I make him think what I want to.
  10. Today I have no doubt whatever that I would have been sick and ruined for life had he not freed me from Kromer's clutches. (=if he had not freed: Inversion after the omission of the conjunction ‘if’)
  11. Those friends who sat with me in the lowest dives among beer puddles and dirty tables I amused (the site of the object) with remarks of unprecedented cynicism. (Inversion of the object: 11, 12, 13)
  12. Everything (that) I had resisted and that had been agony to me when Kromer was my tormentor I suffered (the site of the object) gladly at Demian's hands, with a feeling compounded as much of ecstasy as of fear.
  13. The liberator himself I deserted (the site of the object) as soon as he had performed his miracle.
  14. Disagreeable and bitter was the talk (that) I had with my father in his study. (Inversion of the complement)
  15. To the few experiences which helped me along the way toward my life's true goal I added this new one (the site of the prepositional phrase). (Inversion of the prepositional phrase)


Sentences with Omission Structure

  1. A whole society (which was) composed of men afraid of the unknown within them!
  2. We heard the creeds of solitary holy men, of the transformations (which were) religions undergo in their migrations from one people to another.
  3. How strange (it was) that the stream of the world was not to bypass us any more, that it now went straight through our hearts, and that now or very soon the moment would come when the world would need us,
  4. The goddess cowered on the ground, the mark (being) luminous on her forehead. 5 I perceived the other world, and I lived within that other world as well, though (it was) often a stranger to it,
  5. I perceived the other world, and I lived within that other world as well, though (it was) often a stranger to it,
  6. Franz had put his arm around me and now he drew me so close (that) I was forced to look into his face inches away.
  7. I, (being) guilty and deeply engulfed in an alien world, was entangled in adventures and sin, threatened by an enemy.
  8. No one asked for it but the possibility that they might never (ask for it) left my thoughts.
  9. Sometimes my mother approached me with particular tenderness, as if (she was) already taking leave of me ahead of time, intent on inspiring love, homesickness, the unforgettable in my heart.
  10. Finally, one day I produced, almost without knowing it, a face to which I responded more strongly than I had (responded) to any of the others.


Sentences with Participial Construction

  1. Staring into the dark foliage I greedily breathed the humid fragrance of decay and dying to which something within me responded with greeting.
  2. Soon afterwards we were sitting in a small dive at the edge of town, drinking a wine of doubtful quality and clinking the thick glasses.
  3. The rest of my clothes, strewn about on the floor, reeked of tobacco and vomit.
  4. Meanwhile, viewed from the outside, I was going rapidly downhill.
  5. Someone stepped out of one of the side paths, his coat billowing as he walked
  6. Delight and horror, man and woman commingled, the holiest and most shocking were intertwined, deep guilt flashing through most delicate innocence.

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