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Aureliano Jose could not get to sleep until he heard the twelve-o’clock waltz on the parlor dock, and the mature maiden whose skin was beginning to grow sad did not have a moments’s rest until she felt slip in under her mosquito netting that sleepwalker whom she had raised, not thinking that he would be a palliative for her solitude.

(One Hundred Years of Solitude, translated by Gregory Rabassa)

Would you parse the highlighted part? (It seems that syntactically slip is in equal with that sleepwalker, but it doesn’t make sense to me: first I don’t know what slip means in this case.)

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    For no evident reason the NP and VP are inverted: until she felt [ [Predicate] [Subject]]. It re-verts to She felt [ [that sleepwalker whom she had raised] [slip in under her mosquito netting] ]. *Slip = OALD, 3, "to go somewhere quickly and quietly". – StoneyB Aug 10 '13 at 2:00
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The verb “felt” has two complements:

  • “slip in under her mosquito netting” which indicates the action that is felt (slip has a standard meaning here: enter the area that's protected by the mosquito net, with a connotation that this is done gently, softly);
  • “that sleepwalker whom she had raised” which indicates who performed the action.

The normal word order has the subject before the action: “she felt that sleepwalker whom she had raised slip in under her mosquito netting”. When the subject has a complement that contains a verb, as is the case here, the clause is difficult to parse. So the unusual word order doesn't really make the sentence harder to understand, once you're aware that this inversion is possible.

The word order follows the original: “mientras no sentía deslizarse en el mosquitero aquel sonámbulo que ella había criado”. I don't speak Spanish, so I can't tell whether there's a specific stylistic effect that the translator may have wanted to mimic.

In the French translation, the language is very literary, with a lot of unusual or archaic words and constructions. Such effects are also visible throughout the English translation.

My guess is that the translator deliberately chose this word order in order to make the sentence look more elaborate and old-fashioned, fitting in the general style of the book. Inverting the action and the subject is not standard modern English, but lends an old-fashioned feeling to the sentence.

  • +1. But I think the more usual analysis would be that felt has only one complement: a clause composed of your first as its VP and your second as its NP. – StoneyB Dec 1 '13 at 14:07

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