Theo felt a kind of closeness to the man and said, ‘Why don’t you leave everything behind and get going? Walking is preferable to sitting still. Sitting only brings evil thoughts’.
‘Correct. You’re right. Thoughts are poisoning me.’
‘What are you thinking about?’ Theo tried to be forthcoming.
‘About myself. I’m ashamed to admit it. But I have to. I’ve lost everyone, my wife and my two daughters – and I still think about myself. I hoard sacks. It’s stupid. Even worse – evil. You understand me.’
‘What do you think will happen?’ Theo wanted to walk with him a short way.
‘That strange preoccupation with oneself is a sin which cannot be atoned for. It disgusts me.’
‘Are you a religious man?’ Theo asked cautiously.
‘No, my friend. I come from a middle-class home. Generations of merchants, whom trade, to tell the truth, did not always favour. But one thing it did develop in them was a good measure of egotism.’
– Aharon Appelfeld, For Every Sin (tr. Green)