Only Yesterday

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

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
Returns to Balak

1

How Balak's soul longed for a place of rest, but wherever he went, his luck went with him. Here they showed him the stick, and here they threw stones at him, and here they showered contempt on him, that would shame even a pig. Three or four times, he came across that painter and Balak expected him to say why they hounded him so much. But before he heard from him, the painter kicked him and chased him away, because Balak came to him at the top of his voice, because his heart urged him in grief. When Balak saw that, he said, I'll go to him calmly, then I'll grab him by his trousers, then I'll grab him by his flesh, and then he'll tell me why they hound me. When Balak came to this resolution, he went back to running after the painter. Either the footsteps of the painter were revealed to him in one place, or in another place, or sometimes the whole Land smelled of him. When he followed the smell, the smell ran and rolled before him like the shadow of a creature running. Balak saw that the Land was laughing at him, and that there was no hope or expectation of reaching what his soul desired and coveted and sought and he returned to his main issue, that is, subsistence, which is the main issue of every single creature.

In those days, Balak found himself a place of rest in Richard Wagner's brewery at the railroad station. There he found his food, and perhaps more than in other places, for aside from bones he also found real meat. How? Because sometimes a Jew came to dine there, not only on the nine days, and suddenly another Jew appeared and he was ashamed to be eating unkosher food in front of him, so he would throw the meat under the table and Balak would come and snatch the food.

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