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Sentence is

"He was deterred by the thought that not one of his sufferings but was common to all the others and that in a world where sorrow is so often lonely this was an advantage".

I don't understand this 'but' use. I know he wants to say all of his sufferings were common but what exactly is this usage of 'but'. Is it an error? TIA

  • Please note: That novel is a translation from the French. You could look for a better one. – Lambie Feb 28 at 14:38
  • The one I am reading is done by Stuart Gilbert. – Manish Kumar Balayan Mar 1 at 16:45
  • I would look for others. I believe that was the first and not considered to me the best. – Lambie Mar 1 at 16:46
  • Translation of most of the parts is really good. – Manish Kumar Balayan Mar 1 at 16:49
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This feels like a strain in the translation. In order to make it work in my mind, I have to process it further:

He was deterred by the thought that [there was] not one of his sufferings [except that it] was common to all the others ...

That's still rather a precious and poorly put together statement in modern English, but at least now it has a bit more glue holding it together. In plainer words, it means

There existed not a single one of his sufferings that was not like all the others.

and, even plainer:

All his problems were more or less the same.

This relies on the use of but meaning except that:

but conj
4. With the exception that; except that. Often used with that: would have joined the band but he couldn't spare the time; would have resisted but that they lacked courage.
TFD Online

  • You still get this kind of use of but in contexts like It never rains but it pours, but I think outside of poetic/literary contexts it only really turns up in such "frozen" utterances today (completely different to It never rains but it sometimes snows there). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 28 at 15:28

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