What did I do in those first days in Australia, where I arrived as a sixteen-year-old youth? I sewed pockets in a coat factory, and I read books to chase away boredom. Every day I went to work in the train, and in the evening I read a poem or two I wrote in Yiddish to my Grandmother. She advised me to show them to an author. She had heard that in Melbourne there was such a one, by the name of Pincas Goldhar, but she didn’t know his address. He most likely sat in the “Kadimah” library, she assumed, examining the books.
I didn’t dare ask the old librarian about him, who was deaf anyway, and got angry when I bothered him about information of above-and-beyond books. He wasn’t used to such a fast tempo. His old readers would appear once or twice a year to chose a thick-spined volume, to have something to read. I wasn’t choosy. When the library was open, twice or tree times a week, I plucked whatever came in hand, but I didn’t meet Pincas Goldhar.
My grandmother was surprised. Either he didn’t hear right, or he wasn’t a true author – if he didn’t spend his time with books. She felt my nervousness. I became quiet. I scratched my ears. My crotch. The spectacled man who looked like an Italian immigrant irritated me in the train. He took care to sit next to me and peek at the square letters. From above his glasses his heavy stare was frozen on me, watching how I turn pages backwards, from right to left. As the anger grew, I held the book partly closed. Let the Italian stretch his neck, if he’s so curious. The books I read did not calm the boredom in my life. I filled up notebooks with poems and didn’t find Pincas Goldhar.
“Maybe he doesn’t exist?” I told Grandmother one evening, while we were reading by the fire, she “Tzena U’Rena” and me a similar book, because I had been infected by the old men from the library and had also begun choosing thick-spined books.
I wasn’t surprised then when I sat down in my usual place in the train, next to the window, and saw that in my rush I had taken by accident my grandmother’s book. I flipped through it and got stuck at the chapter “Pure Well” for a long time, so the Italian could benefit. Let him enjoy the dotted letters without stretching his neck.
His eyes froze on the book. Suddenly he rested his hand on and said, in Yiddish, that he could not control himself any longer. For two months he had been silent and didn’t interfere, even though the order of my reading was driving him crazy. He could not understand what kind of reader I was. Poetry, a light novel, the philosophy of Ghandi, articles about trees in Argentina. Finally he calmed down, when he realized that I was reading books in alphabetical order. The day before he had seen “Woman and Socialism: by August Babel in my hands. And today the judgment of women in “Tzena U”Rena”.
He wanted to know who I was, then introduced himself to me: Pincas Goldhar.
translated by Karen Alkalay-Gut