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The Eight Mountains

My father on the other hand had always been a loner. He worked as a chemist in a factory—with a ten-thousand-strong workforce, constantly subject to strike action and sackings—and whatever had taken place in there, he would return home in the evening full of anger. At suppertime, he would stare in silence at the TV news, gripping his cutlery in midair, as if he expected at any moment the outbreak of another world war; and he would curse to himself at the news of every murder victim, every governmental crisis, every hike in the price of oil, every bombing by unidentified terrorists. With the few colleagues he would invite home, he discussed almost exclusively political issues, and always ended up in an argument. He would cast himself as anticommunist with communists, as a radical with Catholics, as a freethinker with anyone who presumed to confine him in a church or on a list of party members. But these were not times during which you could escape all allegiance, and after a while, my father’s workmates stopped coming round. Yet he continued to go to work as if he were climbing every morning into the trenches. He continued not to sleep at night, to take things too much to heart, to wear earplugs and take pills for his headaches, to explode in violent fits of rage—at which point my mother would spring into action, since along with her marital duties she had also assumed the role of pacifying him, of muffling the blows in the fight between my father and the world.