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The last time I saw her was red. The sky was like soup, boiling and stirring. In some places, it was burned. There were black crumbs, and pepper, streaked across the redness.

Earlier, kids had been playing hopscotch there, on the street that looked like oil-stained pages. When I arrived, I could still hear the echoes. The feet tapping the road. The children-voices laughing, and the smiles like salt, but decaying fast.

Then, bombs.

This time, everything was too late.

The sirens. The cuckoo shrieks in the radio. All too late.

Within minutes, mounds of concrete and earth were stacked and piled. The streets were ruptured veins. Blood streamed till it was dried on the road, and the bodies were stuck there, like driftwood after the flood.

They were glued down, every last one of them. A packet of souls.

Was it fate?

Misfortune?

Is that what glued them down like that?

Of course not.

Let’s not be stupid.

It probably had more to do with the hurled bombs, thrown down by humans hiding in the clouds.

–– Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

What leads the complement of predicator, and it is the syntactic subject in what-clause. When I interpret this sentence in my own tongue, I have two possible ways: (1) interpreting all the aforesaid meanings, complement leader and subject in its clause; (2) interpreting the whole what-clause as a nominal complement.

Which one is to be adopted to interpret the sentence well as an English aspect?

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This is another Both/And situation. All three of those relationships are actually there, each at a distinct level of syntactic analysis.

  • In old grammars, what would be taken as the complement of is and the referent of the reduced relative clause [which] glued them down like that.
  • In newer grammars, what is the subject of the free relative clause what glued them down like that.
  • Also in newer grammars, that free relative clause is the complement of is.

I have no idea what translation into Korean would entail. My suggestion would be to jump beyond the purely English syntactic constraints and focus on the multiple coreferences. All of these refer to the same thing:

  • Fate
  • Misfortune
  • That
  • What
  • What glued them down like that

The ‘ladder’ which runs from the beginning of that sequence to its end is what you want to capture in your translation.

From a very different field, which also involves ‘translation’: the father of modern Shakespearean production, Harley Granville Barker, once wrote about the task for the director of Shakespeare’s plays:

Gain Shakespeare’s effects by Shakespeare’s means when you can. But gain Shakespeare’s effects; it is your business to discern them.

The same might be said to any translator: Gain your author’s effects—by your author’s means, if you have them to hand, but gain them by whatever means your language makes available.

  • “at which point I was compelled” (from this book) gave me same wondering what it would be like when it was translated into my language. When there were compelled’s complement, I might have managed thorough with some vague murmuring for the word, compelled. But without it, it was beyond my brain. That’s why I have to consult grammars and seek good replies from a few websites. This wondering is solved from a Korean website by a good replier that I’ve been depended upon near about a year on the site. I don’t know I really get the author’s meaning, but at least I get some my words by her. – Listenever Dec 15 '13 at 2:59

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