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I am reading The Alchemist by Coelho, the Spanish translation, of course (HarperCollins; Juan Godo Costa, translator). In the preface, one can find the following sentence:

La simple idea de transformar metales en oro, o de descubrir el Elixir de Larga Vida, ya era de por sí fascinante para que pudiera pasarle inadvertida a cualquiera que se iniciase en la Magia.

I'm thinking that the author (through this translation) is conveying that the idea of turning metals into gold or discovering the Elixir of Long Life is so fascinating that those who begin to dabble in magic might inadvertently stumble upon either of the two. Does this sound like an accurate translation?

The use of "para que" in this context is tripping me up. I'm reading it as saying, "so much so that" as opposed to simply, "so that." Is this fair or am I adding things that aren't there?

El Alquimista Excerpt

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  • @walen Como is mostly optional there, according to the DPD.
    – pablodf76
    Sep 23 '17 at 16:57
  • Having read the book, I don't want to give away the ending if you're reading the first line, but the prologue is doing it anyway. I think he's saying we search everywhere else to find a treasure when the read treasure is buried within us already. You waste your life wandering, get robbed and left broke, when something more valuable you already had. I think that's what curly from city slickers thinks too and maybe Dorothy. Sep 23 '17 at 22:37
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    For comparison, the original: A simples ideia de transformar metais em ouro, ou de descobrir o Elixir da Longa Vida, já era demasiado fascinante para passar despercebida a qualquer iniciado em Magia. Sep 25 '17 at 23:34
  • @guifa - Very helpful. Sep 27 '17 at 3:03
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That's a type of hypothetical/counterfactual clause you have there. As it stands,

era de por sí fascinante para que pudiera pasarle inadvertida

means "it was in itself too fascinating for it for pass unnoticed". This is counterfactual because the context makes it clear that it did not pass unnoticed, though it could hypothetically have. You probably noted that the English equivalent has to employ the word too, which also signals that some threshold of likelihood has been crossed: it (the idea) could maybe have passed unnoticed, but it was too fascinating for that.

There are several other related ways to employ this construction. It's rather common to use como before para:

era de por sí fascinante como para que pudiera pasarle inadvertida

But this is not compulsory (DPD, entry on como):

f) Seguido de la preposición para + infinitivo, o de para que + verbo en subjuntivo, introduce la consecuencia posible o esperable de lo expresado con anterioridad: «Se sabía [...] con el encanto suficiente como para embelesar a Joaquín» (Elizondo Setenta [Méx. 1987]); «Era un local lo bastante amplio como para que pudieran entrenar allí dos docenas de boxeadores» (Memba Homenaje [Esp. 1989]). La mayor parte de las veces tiene simplemente valor ponderativo y puede suprimirse sin que cambie el sentido del enunciado.

You can use an infinitive instead of a subordinate preceded by que:

era de por sí fascinante (como) para poder pasarle inadvertida

Or dropping the verb poder altogether, since the meaning doesn't really change:

era de por sí fascinante (como) para pasarle inadvertida

As in English, you could optionally add demasiado before the adjective, and you could replace that de por sí, which is merely emphatic:

era (de por sí) demasiado fascinante (como) para pasarle inadvertida

Summarizing, the structure demasiado X como para que Y (and its alternatives) translates roughly as too X for it to Y.

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  • So, Alchemy, the idea of turning metals to gold or finding the El Elixir de Larga Vida, is being differentiated from magic (hence, the capitalization in the original sentence) and the idea on which Alchemy is predicated, is too fascinating to fly below the radar, so to speak, of those initiated in Magic? This is the third sentence of the preface! I'd better strap myself in for things I've never seen before in literary Spanish.
    – Blamettu
    Sep 23 '17 at 20:00
  • Not to worry you, but this is plain everyday Spanish, not literary. Anyway, as I said, English has a very similar construction. Also look out for the ones in @walen's first comment, with suficiente and bastante.
    – pablodf76
    Sep 23 '17 at 22:12
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Another translation has this version:

La simple idea de transformar metales en oro o de descubrir el Elixir de la Larga Vida ya era suficientemente fascinante como para atraer a cualquiera que se iniciara en Magia.

I looked up the original, and compared with translations to English, French and German (since I wouldn't be able to judge the subtleties of Portuguese).

Portuguese Version 1:

A simples idéia de transformar metais em ouro, ou de descobrir o Elixir da Longa Vida, já era fascinante demais para passar despercebida a qualquer iniciante em Magia.

Portugues Version 2:

A simples ideia de transformar metais em ouro, ou de descobrir o Elixir da Longa Vida, já era demasiado fascinante para passar despercebida a qualquer iniciado em Magia.

(I have no idea why there are two versions.)

English, version 1:

The very idea of transforming metals into gold, or of discovering the Elixir of Life, was too fascinating to pass unnoticed by someone coming face-to-face with magic for the first time.

English, Version 2:

The simple idea of transforming metals into gold, or of discovering the Elixir of Long Life, was already fascinating enough to attract anyone who might make a start in Magic.

French:

La simple idée de transformer des métaux en or ou de découvrir l'Élixir de Longue Vie était plus que fascinante pour attirer n'importe quel apprenti magicien.

German: I can find the book online but the preface is entirely missing.

Initial thoughts: I wonder if demais is a bit like de más and de plus. Will give this some more thought later.

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    I typed the sentence verbatim from the book I just purchased. At this point I'm concerned that this book may not be an accurate translation.
    – Blamettu
    Sep 25 '17 at 22:47
  • @aparente001 It's possible there were two different translations done. For a book of that level of success, it wouldn't be unheard of Sep 25 '17 at 23:33
  • @guifa - Funny, I couldn't find OP's version online. Blamettu, who is the translator listed? What can you tell us about the publisher and the edition? Sep 27 '17 at 3:02
  • HarperCollins; Juan Godo Costa, translator
    – Blamettu
    Sep 29 '17 at 3:43

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