Only Yesterday By S.Y. Agnon


One of the best works of fiction I’ve ever read!

My “triad” best novels have been broken… Now there are four: Solzhenitsyn’s “Cancer Ward”, Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”, Mistry’s “A Fine Balance” and S Y Agnon’s “Only Yesterday”.

First off, how I wish I could read and understand Hebrew- the beauty and lyrics of the English translation was prodigious- what more on its original language!

Two moods of experiences I had with the writing style:

First, it was written like you are meditating- the passages are so beautiful, allusive yet engrossing, lyrical (the rhymes on several chapters are just pure genius!), dense (yet each chapter did not give me a long- winded, dragging feel like, say, on my experience reading “A Little Life”). This book, in my opinion, is not a kind of book you bring to read while you're on a holiday.. This book is surely a tough choice if it’s a required reading for your book analysis paper by your literature professor for the finals!

Second, the change of tone and style of writing about the “Balak, the Dog” chapters are stunning- surrealistic, philosophical, mythic. Yet the relation between the two characters, and Agnon’s imagination to weave Balak’s predicament and view, and the book's allegorical grip are truly what made this book a cut above the rest and significant.

I had 12 late night sleeps with this book and couldn’t have been a more euphoric reading experience for me!

The plot is seemingly simple as you read the first 200+ pages, yet there’s a direction, flowy, a build up. But this book is truly an epic- a story of vast historical scope, of biblical validity, of societal complexity, of humanity. The character of Isaac Kumer, considering all the other books I’ve ever read, is the most human- exposes us from our desires and weaknesses, idleness and failures, pride and love, loneliness and memory- the things we hide and deny even from the deepest recesses of our consciousness.. Balak, on the other hand, is just…unforgettable…!!!

This is one of the very rare books that I will read again and again. I’m sure, it’ll be more beautiful and revelatory the second, or third time around!

Six stars!

Paperback Reading Only Yesterday in translation is not ideal. Still, a fair amount of the flavor of Agnon’s style, including his frequent references to traditional Jewish sources, comes through. Only Yesterday is a lengthy satiric novel about the Second Aliyah—the movement of idealistic Jewish youth from Europe to Palestine during the 1905-1914 period.

Like Agnon, the protagonist, Isaac Kumer, comes from an Eastern European Orthodox family. In rebellion against his widower father, Isaac insists on going to Palestine to work the land. His indigent father goes into hock to grant Isaac his wish. Isaac’s father makes this sacrifice to get Isaac out of the way so that he will no longer be a bad influence on his younger brother.

Once Isaac gets to Palestine, he finds that most Jewish farmers would rather hire Arab laborers than young Jews so that making a living tilling the soil is almost impossible. (This was a couple of years before the birth of the Jewish Labor movement and the creation of the first kibbutzim.) Eventually, Isaac becomes a house painter, an occupation that is not envisioned in Zionist romantic mythology. Settling in Jaffa, Isaac falls in love with a charismatic young woman but is unable to capture her affections. Eventually, Isaac relocates to Jerusalem. There he struggles to earn a living and eventually finds a mate but all does not turn out well.

This is the bare bones plot summary of a very extensive and multi-dimensional tale, which has spawned reams of analysis in books and dissertations. The book has a quasi fairy-tale quality and includes sections of considerable humor, including a poem written by a dog.

I will focus on one theme: Jaffa, along with its newly born child, Tel Aviv, represents the secular center of the Zionist enterprise. Jerusalem, by contrast, is the eternal Holy City, where religion is at the core of communal life. Isaac starts off discarding his family’s religious tradition in favor of the pioneering life, but once he leaves Jaffa for Jerusalem, his religious impulses steadily reawaken. It’s as if Isaac is a flesh and blood representation of the view that the Chief Rabbi of Palestine, Abraham Isaac Kook (a friend of Agnon), espoused. Kook viewed the secular Zionist pioneers as containing within them the sparks of holiness that would ultimately lead to the revitalization of the Jewish people as a religious community.

Although Agnon’s lead character finds his way back to Jewish tradition, Agnon aims sharp satiric daggers at the Jerusalem religious community of that time. In contrast to the pioneers toiling in the fields, the Jerusalem community lives a life of passive dependency on external forces. For example, their water supply often dwindles to the point of price gouging by water vendors. Each group lives apart from the others, with the Hungarians, for example, despising the Galitzianers like Isaac. A prominent and popular rabbi attributes disease outbreaks and droughts to insufficient religious fervor on the part of the populace (his sermon is a satiric masterpiece), and superstition substitutes for medical practice. Another rabbi takes pride in declaring meat unfit that other Rabbis deem kosher, to the dismay and economic detriment of his community.

Eventually, towards the end of the book, Agnon introduces a second protagonist, a dog named Balak. Balak is condemned to wander from one part of Jerusalem to another, feared and persecuted by the Jewish populace, because Isaac has painted the words “crazy dog” on his back. The lengthy dog sections provide us with an extensive canine perspective on Jerusalem’s neighborhoods and population. Balak's presence also contributes to the plot through the role that Balak plays in Isaac’s fate. Nonetheless, the dog is a odd addition to the story (and the explanation of his name Balak is especially odd, from an orthographic standpoint).

At the end of the novel, Isaac’s wife and mother-in-law, apparently speaking for the author, question the community’s belief in divine reward and punishment. As far as Agnon is concerned, Isaac’s life did not proceed according to the working out of Divine justice, despite what the Orthodox say.

Paperback Only yesterday, he was willing to argue about every Zionist issue, but today, since he is going to fulfill his words in deeds, all words are superfluous and supercilious.

A young Jewish man, Isaac Kumer, leaves his hometown in Galicia (around Poland/Ukraine border) to “ascend” to Jerusalem, firmly enthralled by Zionist ideas. Only Yesterday is a window to the land of Palestine. Not the Zionist nation but the land itself. The setting of the Second Aliyah (1904-1914), even the year that the novel was published (1945), all occurred before the country of Israel came into being (1948). Although, Zionism is part of the plot, little of the story is political. Instead, it is a glimpse into Jewish beliefs, religion, culture and lifestyle.

This one is funny. The Messiah, Son of David, comes only in a generation which is all innocent or all guilty, and since it is easier to sin than to keep the Commandments, so they sin.

This is Isaac’s story, his bildungsroman. We see him develop from a naïve, unskilled dreamer to become a mature, skilled worker. Look at Isaac, his hands are delicate as a maiden’s, but they are eager to do any work.

He starts with his head in the Zionist clouds but is pulled down to earth by the inhospitable environment. He had several benefactors like Rabinovitch, the Baron, and Sweetfoot, along the way to set him on his feet. He does regress at one point when he makes a pointless journey back to Jaffa to make it up to Sonya. He naively thinks that he has a relationship with her.

But he eventually returns to Jerusalem and finds his way again. At the end of his journey, he is pretty far from his original Zionist ideals. He does not find success in Palestine either. Rather he finds equanimity. Milk and honey Isaac did not find in Jerusalem, but he did attain a state of equanimity.

Common Identity. The returning Jewish diaspora are from different countries (mostly Russia) and backgrounds. Despite the different languages and culture, they have a common bond and support each other, like a Tower of Babel in reverse. All the sons of Israel are comrades, especially in the land of Israel.

Contrasts. The most striking contrasts were between the cities of Jaffa and Jerusalem. Jaffa is developing and growing while Jerusalem is static and ultra-orthodox. These cities are also represented by Isaac’s love interests. We have the modern, liberated Sonya in Jaffa and the modest, conservative Shifra in Jerusalem.

Metaphors. There are probably many different metaphors running through the story. The most enigmatic of which is Balak the dog. Halfway through the novel, the narrative swings from Isaac over to Balak, which is a bit bizarre. Isaac paints “Crazy Dog” onto Balak and so Balak becomes labeled for the rest of the story. Balak is allegorical, but what or who it represents escapes me. Balak is constantly seeking acceptance but is often ostracized.

Arabs. They are significant in that they are only briefly but regularly mentioned throughout the novel. Rather than being portrayed as enemies, the Arabs are presented more as competitors.

how to make the farmers realize how much evil they were causing themselves and all of the Children of Israel when they reject the Hebrew laborers and nod their head at the Arabs and shake their heads at the Jews. Related to that is the issue of local versus foreign labour, something familiar to most countries around the world.

And finally, any stories which mention books and reading can’t be that bad. And we must say that Isaac did not deprive himself of what was good for him and read a lot. Paperback DONE! Man, I don't think I've ever taken so long to get through a book, even when I wasn't reading as many a year as I am presently.

I didn't want to rush this novel, but I'm still concerned by what I might be missing. The language was, at times, archaic and infantile, and often featured long blocks of detailed, quoteless dialogue. The entire story was quite detailed, as we first dove into daily affairs of Isaac's Zionist life in Jaffa, and then his religious life in Jerusalem--over 600 pages total.

I have to wonder if the translation was difficult and even contradictory in some of its diction because Hebrew, when Agnon was writing in 1945, was both an old and a young language. The story itself takes place at the turn of the 20th century, when our protagonist, Isaac, leaves his observant, beleaguered family in Galicia, and under his youthful Zionist fervor, makes Aliyah to the Land in order to live out it's principles.

It is quite striking that, through the fleeting prologue of traveling through Eastern Europe to get to the ship, and then through the book proper, there was little framing of the story under the auspices of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire or Ottoman Palestine. This story is very concretely about Jewish societies--particularly the modern, Labor movement with it's workers' clubs, lectures and newspapers and burgeoning Tel Aviv in Jaffa; and then the much older Jerusalamite world steeped in religious study, prayer and faith. The ultimate message, though, is that no dream, when actually lived out, is really that simple.

Tacked on top of all of that is Agnon's modernist/folklorist conceit of Isaac's fateful encounters with the dog, Balak, who then takes charge of some chapters, and is generally the voice of exile from the Jewish people--Diaspora, essentially. Otherwise, the voice is told in first person plural--these aren't just one man's (or dog's) journey, after all, but a collective one, for Jews (specifically Ashkenazi Jews, though there is mention to Sephardim and others living in the Land,) as we struggle for community and identity amidst persecution, alienation, a desire for a thriving homeland.

It's all very male-centric, of course. :P If I had my druthers, we might get more time with Sonya, the self-confident, if a bit lazy, modern-day Russian Jewish artist; and Rebecca, Isaac's ultimate mother-in-law, who had to put herself out in the world when her husband got sick and Distribution money dried up. And what about his poor sisters?? Well, I guess they had to stay pretty separate, since they weren't physically in the story. Alas.

I saw another review on GoodReads that labeled this as Agnon's most accessible work--oy gevalt! Be that as it may, perhaps I should've eased into this writing style with a shorter novel first, but NOOOO---I had to go straight for the magnum opus. :P Guess I paid for my pretentiousness.
Paperback I wanted to read a book that many consider to be Agnon’s masterpiece, as well as others who claim it to be one of the finest examples of modern Hebrew literature. I was not disappointed at all. It took me quite a while to finish ‘Only Yesterday’ as apart from being particularly busy in recent weeks, I found that I wanted to read each page quite slowly, savouring the folkloric language and making sure that I had fully absorbed what the author wanted to say.

On the surface this is a tale of one man’s passage to the Land of Israel from his home village in Austro-Hungarian Galicia. The pre-WWI Ottoman Palestine he arrives in is a world far removed from his naïve imaginings. Our ‘hero’ – Isaac Kumer – is a young and impoverished Zionist of the Second Aliyah. This was the period of renewed zeal amongst the (mainly Russian) Jews of the pogrom and persecution-beset old country, and although relatively small in number, the wide-ranging influence of its pioneers on subsequent generations in the founding of the State of Israel is beyond compare. Agnon charmingly weaves into his plot many historic (and also the future historic) figures alongside the fictional cast of many. Initially finding his feet in the bustling port town of Jaffa, Isaac eventually makes the trip up to Jerusalem. At either end of this journey Agnon lavishly portrays the fascinating world of these two very different towns – the former being coastal, politicised, and predominantly secular, the latter being of the interior, traditional and overwhelmingly orthodox. If nothing else, this book serves as a wonderfully valuable portrayal of a world now gone. The co-mingling of European Jews and their indigenous brethren, the urban and the rural, the liberal and the conservative, at a time when the very soul of the future Jewish state was in gestation, is fascinating to behold.

After many early setbacks in his attempts to find the work on the land that he had dreamed of [One disappointment of ‘Only Yesterday’ was the nearly complete absence of the Arabs of the country. An exception to this is in reference to those farmers preferring to employ the cheaper Arab labour to that of the Jewish immigrant. They’re referred to in other places, but so scantily that I can only conclude that they did not figure largely in the day to day life at that time of either Agnon himself, or those contemporaries of the period that he is portraying.] – Isaac stumbles on another way to earn a living as a painter.

As his early years in the land are told – sometimes the narrator is from Isaac’s point of view, sometimes detached from Isaac as an omnipotent observer, and sometimes in the lives of others altogether – the novel starts to develop simultaneously on several levels. As well as the tale of Isaac’s days, the reader is aware of the question of being a stranger in a strange land. In Jaffa Isaac is a Galician among the Russians. In the fields he is a Jew among the Arabs. In Jerusalem he is a ‘modern’, or a Zionist, among the Hasidim. And so on. Questions of identity and purpose are constantly in Isaac’s mind as he is also caught between the only two women he has ever known outside of his family – one in Jaffa and the other in Jerusalem.

Agnon has a great sense of humour and mischief as well, as we discover mid-story when he introduces an almost magical or Kafkaesque element in the guise of a stray dog. Balak, the dog, suffers the misfortune to be the butt of Isaac’s tomfoolery in a moment of boredom. The repercussions of the joke are so consequential to the story that I can’t say more. Suffice to say, in every chapter when Balak takes the lead, the reader is treated to an alternate view of the universe from a lonesome dog’s perspective.

Agnon’s writing is soaring and beautiful in as many places depicting the mundane and the ugly of everyday life as it is the wondrous and mystical. The imagery of his tale is powerful and will stay with me for a long time to come. An unforgettable story.

A description of the artwork on the cover: Pinwheel Vendor by Reuven Rubin (1923). It is taken from a catalogue for a Rubin exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art entitled Dreamland. I include it as it is of some interest considering the publisher's choice and that it seems to express with great subtlety something of the story itself:

An Arab of Sudanese descent sits facing the sea while a Jewish pioneer stands beside him. The Sudanese man’s pose, his elevated chin and the fixed gaze focused on a faraway point on the horizon create the sense of a character operating within the dimensions of “inexhaustible time” – time which is not measured in the units of “here and now” but by means of an hourglass in which the sand grains do not run out. The Sudanese man has so much time that he does not even bother to blow at his pinwheels. Sooner or later, the wind will come. If not sooner, then later. And if not later, then after later. The pioneer at his side stands barefoot like the natives and carries a hoe – a symbol of Zionist activism – on his shoulder, his back turned to the sea. The Sudanese man looks as if he could keep crouching on his heels for a long time. He is in no hurry, and patience is the trait ensuring his survival. He operates in another temporal sphere. By contrast, the “New Jew” – bearded and wearing a European hat – is full of movement and impetuosity. He has no time, and must begin his task. Paperback

Israeli Nobel Laureate S.Y. Agnon's famous masterpiece, his novel Only Yesterday, here appears in English translation for the first time. Published in 1945, the book tells a seemingly simple tale about a man who immigrates to Palestine with the Second Aliya--the several hundred idealists who returned between 1904 and 1914 to work the Hebrew soil as in Biblical times and revive Hebrew culture. Only Yesterday quickly became recognized as a monumental work of world literature, but not only for its vivid historical reconstruction of Israel's founding society. This epic novel also engages the reader in a fascinating network of meanings, contradictions, and paradoxes all leading to the question, what, if anything, controls human existence?

Seduced by Zionist slogans, young Isaac Kumer imagines the Land of Israel filled with the financial, social, and erotic opportunities that were denied him, the son of an impoverished shopkeeper, in Poland. Once there, he cannot find the agricultural work he anticipated. Instead Isaac happens upon house-painting jobs as he moves from secular, Zionist Jaffa, where the ideological fervor and sexual freedom are alien to him, to ultra-orthodox, anti-Zionist Jerusalem. While some of his Zionist friends turn capitalist, becoming successful merchants, his own life remains adrift and impoverished in a land torn between idealism and practicality, a place that is at once homeland and diaspora. Eventually he marries a religious woman in Jerusalem, after his worldly girlfriend in Jaffa rejects him.

Led astray by circumstances, Isaac always ends up in the place opposite of where he wants to be, but why? The text soars to Surrealist-Kafkaesque dimensions when, in a playful mode, Isaac drips paint on a stray dog, writing Crazy Dog on his back. Causing panic wherever he roams, the dog takes over the story, until, after enduring persecution for so long without understanding why, he really does go mad and bites Isaac. The dog has been interpreted as everything from the embodiment of Exile to a daemonic force, and becomes an unforgettable character in a book about the death of God, the deception of discourse, the power of suppressed eroticism, and the destiny of a people depicted in all its darkness and promise. Only Yesterday

Read & Download ☆ E-book, or Kindle E-pub Ü S.Y. Agnon

This is probably the most accessible Agnon novel that I've read. In some ways I found it less affecting than Guest for the Night because I'm living in exile outside Israel rather than living in exile inside Israel, but when read together, they beautifully bookend the predicament of being a Jew. Whether to make Aliyah or not, and the impossibility of escaping exile in either case. It is, however, ironic that in Agnon's books, exile is heavily tinged with the misery of poverty, while today, our exile is tinged with the misery of excessive wealth. Paperback Qualcosa di assolutamente personale

Che dire di questo libro che A.B. Yehoshua definisce l'opera più significativa nella storia della letteratura ebraica del XX secolo?
Apparirebbe, ogni parola, assolutamente inadeguata.

Tenterò allora di sillabare almeno che cosa è stato questo libro per me.
Di ritorno da Gerusalemme, un'amica me lo ha regalato per il mio compleanno, senza sapere che, poco prima del mio rientro, nel locale che deve il nome a questo romanzo, Tmol Shilshom (, si erano festeggiati i 20 anni di apertura con una lettura continuata (l'edizione italiana ha 770 pagine di testo...) in tutte le lingue disponibili tra gli avventori.
L'edizione originale è del 1945, ed è davvero -a mio modo di vedere, appunto- una sorta di quaderno degli appunti di un bambino che scopre come usare le parole per descrivere la realtà. E che mentre la descrive la interroga anche, e che mentre la interroga si pone delle domande e cerca delle risposte. Così come le porrebbe un bambino. Ma anche con l'impietosità di un vecchio disincantato che sa che le risposte, quelle che mettono pace sono poche.
Con un fraseggio elementare, ricco di ripetizioni, con un discorso diretto inframmezzato a pensieri e a sogni, in modo che tutto si confonda - come nella vita reale spesso accade-, Agnon descrive, senza pietà, ma con molta pietas, la vita di quanti, come lui, salirono nella Terra guidati da un sogno e nella terra vissero i loro più terribili incubi.
Protagonisti assoluti, ma non solitari, sono Isacco Kumer e un cane, Balac (che, letto al contrario, calab, in ebraico significa, appunto cane), e l'incontro che cambia la loro vita e quella di molte altre persone, in un intreccio impensabile e impensato, ma così comune, nella vita comune.

Si è fatto leggere lentamente, questo testo. Troppe analogie, troppe corrispondenze. Una geografia conosciuta, fatta non solo di strade e quartieri -Gerusalemme e la vecchia Giaffa e la nascente Tel Aviv-, ma di percorsi del cuore.
Un viaggio, fatto di parole, abbozzate, sentimenti, sogni, incubi e desideri. Di morsi, metaforici e reali, per capire la vita e scoprire, invece, che questa scivola dalle dita senza risposta. Paperback S.Y. Agnon is apparently a key figure in Israeli literature, and Only Yesterday is very much a novel about Israel. But it is my book from Ukraine for the Read The World challenge.

My reasons for assigning the book to Ukraine were basically pragmatic — there wasn’t an alternative from Ukraine which sprang out at me, and I felt like reading something more contemporary for Israel — but it’s quite fitting anyway. It’s a novel about the early waves of modern Jewish settlers to Palestine at the start of the twentieth century, and although nearly all the action takes place in the Middle East, in many ways it’s a story of eastern and central Europe. The various characters are still as much identified with their homelands — Russia, Hungary, and so on — as they are with any nascent Israeli identity. In fact the book’s central character, Isaac, moves in an almost completely European world; the Arab population of Palestine is occasionally mentioned, but I can’t remember a single named Arab character. The few non-Jewish characters seem to be European Christians.

Neither Ukraine nor Israel existed as independent nations when this novel is set; Isaac is a Jew from Galicia, in the Austro-Hungarian empire, who immigrates to what is then the British Mandate in 1908. It is obviously not a coincidence that S.Y. Agnon was also a Galician Jew who made the same move at the same date. The novel is clearly only autobiographical in a limited way, though, since Isaac is an unsophisticated working man rather than a bookish one.

This is the book I have been whinging about (1, 2) because of its sheer physical weight. And it may have been a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I do think I would have finished it quicker and perhaps enjoyed it more if it hadn’t been so unnecessarily bulky. But I still enjoyed it; it’s humane and even quite funny, as literary novels go.

The human story of Isaac held my attention; I did sometimes start to lose focus with some of the more detailed stuff about Zionism and so on. There are so many people and organisations who get mentioned: writers, politicians, theologians, Zionist charities, settler organisations, religious groups. There wasn’t too much of the book taken up by characters sitting around in cafés and having conversations about Zionism, but there was a bit, and I just got the feeling that generally in the novel there was a whole level of commentary and satire that I was missing because I didn’t have enough context. Which is unfortunate.

But even if I didn’t get all the nuances, I still thought that the ideological aspect was important to the novel. One of the striking things about it is the portrayal of people trying to create a new place from scratch. It’s not a utopian project precisely, but all these settlers have made the difficult and expensive journey from Europe to Israel because of some idea or idealism, whether political or religious, and that idea may or may not survive contact with the reality . At the very least, the reality is unlikely to be exactly what they expected.

One of my reasons for reading it was that I was interested in a book set during that early history of modern Israel. But it’s not a history book, and like all(?) good novels what makes it work is an interest in people, not in ideas. And it is a very good novel, and generally a readable and engaging one.
Paperback Jeopardy time.

Writers for $400, Alex.

Answer: The only Israeli to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Who is Amos Oz?

Wrong. He's never won a Nobel, but he might someday.

Who is Isaac Bashevis Singer?

Wrong. He won a Nobel, but he certainly wasn't Israeli.

If you answered, Who is S.Y. Agnon?, you were correct.

As a lover of literature and a lover of Israel, I felt compelled to tackle Agnon's opus Only Yesterday. And I'm glad I did, even if there were long passages in which I felt something must have been lost in translation.

There were three aspects of Only Yesterday that made an impression on me.

One, Agnon, despite the simplicity of his prose, does a masterful yet unsentimental job painting the fascinating scenes of early 20th Century, pre-state Israel.

Two, Agnon, despite being the most-decorated Israeli writer, also beautifully conveys the faith, the language, and the culture of Eastern European Jewry.

And three, Agnon tells a poignant, universal story. As the title suggests, and as all victims of tragedy know, one's life might have been a lot different only yesterday
Paperback לפני זמן מה מצאתי בבית הורי את הספרון הישן ממנו למדתי בתיכון את סיפורו של שי עגנון והיה העקוב למישור. מאחר שזכרתי כי אהבתי קטעים רבים מתוכו, ניסיתי לשוב ולקרוא בו (אומנם בחטף). כל זאת רק בשביל להזדעזע מכך שכבר לא היתה בי סבלנות לנסות ולפצח את השפה העגנונית הקשה שלו ולהתפעל מאורך הרוח ויכולת הקריאה וההתמדה שהיו לי בנעורי (הגם שניבעו בקריאתי תמיד חורים גדולים בהבנה).

אל חשש. הספר תמול שלשום, גם אם הוא כתוב בעגנונית ומרבה לצטט מן המקורות, הוא קריא לחלוטין (טוב לי לפחות הוא היה קריא). עגנון אולי בורא שפה משלו, השונה מהעברית המדוברת היום, אבל קל לתרגם אותה ולהסתגל אליה ומעל לכל היא מדוייקת ועשירה מאוד ובכך מפליאה לצייר את המאורעות ואת תהפוכות הנפש של הגיבורים. קיבלתי קצת חינוך מסורתי, וזה קצת עזר (האם ילדי יוכלו לקרוא בעגנון? לא בטוח) בודאי שלא היה מזיק לי להכיר קצת יותר מדרשים ואגדות חסידים. אבל הדבר אינו פוגם בקריאה. גם לציטוטים ביידיש עגנון לרוב מוסיף תרגום משלו בגוף הסיפור.

הרומן עצמו יפה. איטי ודל בהתרחשויות – לא דווקא חיסרון. הוא מורכב למדי וארוך וניתן למצוא בו כמעט הכל – תיאורים היסטוריים, פארודיה, פסיכולוגיה ופנטסיה. טוב, עגנון גם נוטה לחזרתיות מסויימת. לפעמים אתה אומר לעצמך טוב הלאה, הבנתי. אבל סך הכל העסק זורם, וכן מהנה.