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Both writers refer, if only indirectly, to a wealth of other art.

How to understand "if only" in this sentence? What does the sentence mean exactly?

4

It's a qualification of the statement being made. A reference to a wealth of other art is made by both writers. Although those references are not direct references, they do refer it indirectly.

You can read it as, "Both writers refer, even if the references are only indirect, to a wealth of other art."

Similar to if I say, "The man heard a sound, if only for a moment." (The man heard a sound even if it was only for a moment.)

This type of construction is used when the speaker knows that the listener is going to say, for example, "Yeah, but they didn't refer to it directly." Or, "Yeah, but he only heard it for a fraction of a second." and they wish to stop that line of argument before it can be raised.

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