Only Yesterday

By S. Y. Agnon; Barbara Harshav | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
Isaac at His Work

1

Isaac is still a novice at work, for his brush leads him and he doesn't lead his brush. He dips a brush in a pail and puts the paints on the objects without thinking before he acts. He lays it on thick where he should be sparing, is sparing where he should lay it on thick, and if something perfect comes out of his hand, it's only by chance. We shall not offend Isaac's honor if we count him among the painters who are called smearers, who stretch out their hands with paint and rely on the brush to do what it does, just so they get paid. After a few days, he learned a bit from experience. But every rose has a thorn, for the routine of work made a habit of the same mistakes he kept making. And even if he recognized that he was doing wrong, he didn't know how to correct it, because he hadn't learned this craft and wasn't experienced in it.

To learn the craft properly, he should have gone to an artisan, and served as his apprentice for a year or two. After he became expert enough, he would work for him as a laborer for a salary of two Bishliks a day. But two Bishliks a day aren't enough to support him, let alone during those two years when he doesn't get any salary. And furthermore, there wasn't anyone to teach him. The ten painters who lived in Jaffa weren't accustomed to using assistants, not because they are destined to become their competitors, but because they have no need for them. There are painters in Jaffa who don't have work in the city and go seeking work in the villages, and there are those who take any job that comes their way. When people move, they work as plasterers and whitewashers, and in the winter, they make crates for oranges for export, for painting jobs aren't found in every season and

-70-

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