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I’m reading Samuel Beckett’s Molloy, the narrator is describing that to communicate with her he has to knock her head.

One knock meant yes

Two knocks meant no

Three knocks meant I don’t know

Four knocks meant money

Five knocks meant goodbye

Then, the narrator said her mother couldn’t count after, the distance between two and four was too great. Then the following sentence occurs

“By the time she came to fourth knock she imagined she was only at the second, the first two having been erased from memory as completely as if they had never been felt”

I do understand what the sentence means, but its grammatical form is too tough for me to adopt it in my writing. I would have written

“By the time she came to the fourth knock she imagined she was only at the second, the first two were erased from her memory as completely as if they were never felt”

I think if someone can point out the difference in the meanings of my sentence with the original I might get an idea to that grammatical structure. Or you can adopt your own didactic method for replies.

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“By the time she came to fourth knock she imagined she was only at the second, the first two [ having been erased from memory as completely as if they had never been felt”]

The bracketed text is a nonfinite ( participial) clause which uses as its main verb the passive voice perfect participle verb form of "erase".

Here is an explanation of this form and examples of usage:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/b1-b2-grammar/participle-clauses#: :text=Perfect%20participle%20clauses%20show%20that,will%20be%20fully%20qualified%20doctors.

The subordinate full clause (as if they had never been felt”) refers to a time period prior to the time point of the matrix clause, - the 4th knock. At that time, her memory state was "erased" and at that point it was as if the first two knocks never happened before".

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Hall

I would have written

“By the time she came to the fourth knock she imagined she was only at the second. The first two were erased from her memory as completely as if they were never felt”

That paraphrase leaves out the causal element conveyed by the participle clause, and it also contains a "comma splice" error (fixed in red).

“By the time she came to the fourth knock she imagined she was only at the second because the first two were/had been erased from her memory as completely as if they were never/had never been felt.”

CJ