Only Yesterday

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

CHAPTER SIX
Private Thoughts

1

Isaac didn't make much of an impression on folks. There are a lot of fellows like Isaac and you don't pay any heed to them; Isaac excels neither in looks nor in conversation. If you chanced to talk with him, you wouldn't be eager to talk with him again. And if you meet him in the market, sometimes you don't recognize him. Unless you're fond of Isaac, a fellow like him doesn't exist for you. He is average height and his face is broad on top and narrow on the bottom. His eyes are calm and do not sparkle. His walk is heavy like a craftsman whose pace is weighed down by his tools. On weekdays he wears white pants and a short coat of green satin with black stripes, and under the coat is a brown shirt, and a tattered hat sits on his head, and all those garments are speckled with paint. His shoes are flat and his fingernails shine in his black fingers and his hair burgeons on the back of his neck. And when he puts on his Sabbath clothes he looks like a young man from Meah Shearim who fancied himself a Maskil. There are seamstresses and milliners who have complaints about him. Such a fellow shouldn't push himself into that house whose tenants are all teachers and writers and artists and activists.

Those milliners and seamstresses who crush their bodies to make a living didn't show favor to that painter. Other fellows won their hearts, fellows whose deeds are like those in novels. Some of them were already exiled to Siberia and some of them took part in the assassination of a Russian General Governor, some took part in the self-defense organization against pogroms, and some organized strikes. Now they dwell here in the Land of Israel like sheep hidden

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