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Hi

An elderly guy asks a young man: Tell me now where you're coming from?

The young guy replies: Home. Just getting away. Make my own life.

I understand that his answer "home" is ironic as the elderly guy was probably asking about the name of the city.

Then he says that he's just getting away and will try to plan his life himself, right?

Finally the kid tells him where he's from and says: X. Little coal-mining town just this side of hell.

Is it some allusion that the town he comes from is like hell, but it's here on this side and the real hell is, say, underneath?
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The town he is from is not Hell, but he feels it's close enough to being unbearable (for him) that it's only one step away it.

A similar expression might be "Just this side of nowhere" meaning it's very remote. When your'e there, not you're not "nowhere" but it can feel that way.

He will try to do whatever he thinks his path in life will take him, instead of following whatever his family/friends/people in his hometown think he should do.
Comments  
Grammar GeekThe town he is from is not Hell, but he feels it's close enough to being unbearable (for him) that it's only one step away it.A similar expression might be "Just this side of nowhere" meaning it's very remote. When your'e there, not you're not "nowhere" but it can feel that way.He will try to do whatever he thinks his path in life will take him, instead of following whatever his family/friends/people in his hometown think he should do.

Is it the same as "in the middle of nowhere". (I'm referring to your example with "nowhere"). My town's in the middle of nowhere.

Of course I didn't think his town was hell. I just understood that he said that this town is like hell, but it's just located on the other side of hell. For example, the real hell is underground and my town is also like hell, but it's here, on this side. Of course I understand that by hell he implies something unbearable. Emotion: smile