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He took them in at a swift glance. No use. No one he knew, except—he responded to the greeting listlessly—a gentleman to whom he had spoken on the train, and farther off a familiar face from the metropolis. (The Burning Secret, Stefan Zweig)

What does the marked phrase above mean?

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  • It is two phrases. Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 21:27

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"Farther" is a comparative form of "far" (see the OED).

The phrase "farther off" means "further away": that is, more distant.

A "familiar face" (see meaning 4 in the Oxford Learner's) is simply a face which is familiar; here it's being used to mean a person whom the character recognises.

So the phrase "No one he knew, except a gentleman, and farther off, a familiar face." means he knew two people: one was a gentleman to whom he had spoken on the train, and one was someone he recognised who was more distant in space.

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  • Thank you. This construction seemed a little strange to me. Could I rewrite that sentence as in: "No use. No one he knew, except—he responded to the greeting listlessly—a gentleman to whom he had spoken on the train, and a familiar face from the metropolis farther off." or "... and a familiar face farther off from the metropolis." Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 16:07
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    @TalhaÖzden Both are fine, but I think the latter is better. "… from the metropolis farther off" has a slight risk of being misinterpreted as "… from the metropolis which is farther off". Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 17:01

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