Only Yesterday

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

CHAPTER FOUR
The Man We Alluded to at the End of the Previous Chapter

1

Near Isaac's apartment stands a group of houses. People who were content with little built themselves those houses, people who were content with even less came to dwell in their cellars. When Isaac left the restaurant, he saw the sign of Samson Bloykof the painter, whose name he had heard and whose pictures he had seen in several Hebrew and foreign almanacs, and his frames are found in the home of every Hebrew teacher in Jaffa and Jerusalem. Those frames are of olive wood in the shape of a Magen David inlaid with seashells, but the teachers of Jaffa who have a literary bent put the pictures of our writers and poets in them, the greatest one in the middle and his satellites around him, including pictures of themselves, for there isn't one single teacher in Jaffa who doesn't see himself as a writer, unlike the teachers of Jerusalem who see themselves as sages and who put pictures of our great sages including pictures of themselves in those frames. Bloykof was Isaac's fellow countryman, and now that he found himself standing before his house, he took heart and went inside.

Samson Bloykof was about thirty years old, suffered from a weak heart and weak lungs, and knew that his death was near, and so he worked diligently to accomplish in his life what he wouldn't accomplish after his death, for when a person is dead, he can't paint, and furthermore, at the moment when he is passing to the nether world, all his images return and pass before his eyes and are thousands and thousands of times sweeter and finer. And he wants to stretch out his hands and paint. And his hands reply, We are already delivered to the earth, for dust we are. And he wants to cry but the tears don't come, for his eyes are closed with shards. Bloykof, who

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