Food poisoning, a harsh case, kept me close to the toilet all night and morning. Still feeling shaky from the loss of so much water; but I'm anxious to get back to Peter's book, especially since there have been good comments and help from two of you on the sentence that had me stumped.
Here's the sentence again:
So ließen die Zuggleise und -weichen, beim Passieren der Züge im Wald fast ein Lärm, sich jetzt überhören -- war denn von einem Moment zum anderen der Zuverkehr eingestellt worden?, wie auch die Lautsprecherstimme vom nahen Bahnhof, vom Endbahnhof, in den Wald geschallt als Gebrüll -- darauf das Gegengebrülls des Waldmanns --, beim Ausschreiten im Freien ein Hintergrundgeräusch abgab im Rauschen der Stille!
With help from Michael Roloff and a fine blogger who has been writing about Hans Henny Jahn (check out both their blogs through the links on my main page), I think I'm ready to try to translate the sentence. Then I'd like to think some about it.
The previous sentence is about changes in sounds as a human being enters a new space, about the crickets that change their chirping to another frequency hardly audible to a human ear.
"Similarly, the train tracks and switches whose noise almost rises to the level of din as trains pass in the woods, can no longer be heard -- had there been a sudden stoppage of train traffic?, and also the loudspeaker voice from the nearby train station, resounding from the terminal station as a roar -- and then the answering roar of the man in the woods --, while pacing out into the open it provided a background noise to the noise of silence!"
As Michael Roloff writes, Peter has shown in earlier texts just how sensitive he is to noise. And as several of us have written, he is devoted to phenomenology, to the study of the structures of consciousness and how they arise in relation to the world we experience through sight and hearing and taste and so on. There's a philosophical movement that includes Heidegger and Husserl and others, and Peter is acutely aware of their work; but in sentences like the one we just translated, he's not doing philosophy (he never does philosophy, he's a novelist and poet), he's simply paying rapt attention to what a walker experiences when leaving the woods.
And perhaps here is a first answer to the question about why a complicated and difficult sentence like this one. Since our consciousness is shaped as much by its structures as by the world that comes to us through our senses, and since those structures of consciousness are strongly influenced by our languages, what kind of sentence would serve such an experience most supply, most accurately, most interestingly?
Putting a reader into the grammar of this sentence, perhaps, puts a reader into the position of the walker in and out of the woods, allows a reader to experience one thing, then something related, if somewhat awkwardly, then to ask a question about it, and finally to bring it all back into the whole that is the sentence.
That's the best I can do in my weakened condition. Thanks to those of you who helped.