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My father was a self-taught man. He had to leave school to go to work, age twelve, after his father had left his mother to work as an accountant, which nowadays seems incredible.
All his life, he read and read and read. He was interested in astronomy, politics, and my parents’ bookshelf was always full of varied and interesting literature. My father was a fan of Immanuel Velikowski , but he also read Sartre, de Beauvoir, Robert Merle, Tolstoy, and every single day in his life read Le Monde from first page to last.
He became a shop-owner against his will, but had he had a choice, no doubt he would have studied astronomy or geography, who knows?
He hated the selling stuff part of the business. He didn’t like the contact with customers and wasn’t really good at it. He let my mother do that. He stuck to the accountant part of it. He was a man of duty, and in those times, self-fulfillment didn’t seem as important as it does today, or rather he thought it was important for his children to have a job they liked, since for him it was too late.
At one point, I thought of following into my parents’ steps and taking up the family business, because I was convinced I wouldn’t like teaching and couldn’t, at the time, find a job, and I remember several conversations I had with him telling me I shouldn’t give up using what I had learnt to become a shopkeeper.
I can still remember the pride in his eyes when I became an English teacher. To him, having a daughter who was a teacher was like the ultimate step in the social ladder. And he was a real feminist. One of the things he repeated to me was
A woman must be free and independant. And the only way to independance is to have a job and earn money. Don’t ever depend on a man.
No doubt it had to do with the way his mother, who depended on her husband, had been left to fend for herself.
Remembering all this feels good and one last memory which comes to my mind is the way he would take me rowing on the small lake at Bois de Boulogne, on Sunday mornings. As if he had been teaching me to row the boat of life