A Runner Among Falling Leaves: A Story of Childhood by Ciaran O'Driscoll

By Ciaran O'Driscoll

A photo of poet Ciaran O'Driscoll taken while he was once 8 or 9 by way of his father exhibits a radiantly smiling baby, doubtless at domestic along with his kin and the realm. yet that photograph is an anomaly; the boy's face was once way more frequently darkened by way of a pensive, far away frown. The resources of O'Driscoll's adolescent melancholy—and its lingering strains in his grownup life—are the topic of his evocative memoir, A Runner between Falling Leaves . Born in Kilkenny, eire in 1943, Ciaran O'Driscoll grew up in a house shadowed through the bullying and abuse of his father. The violence O'Driscoll suffered by the hands of his father in his domestic was once disturbing, yet in lots of respects it paled compared to the general public humiliation his father meted out to the boy in school, the place he served as O'Driscoll's instructor. the twin function his father performed left the kid no position of shelter, no get away from the consistent psychological cruelty and actual ache, and the scars of that upbringing proceed to hang-out the writer this present day. In crystalline prose, O'Driscoll supplies voice to the silent baby in his thoughts, exploring the unnerving, roiling feelings of these years from the point of view of maturity. the tale strikes backward and forward, from the boy to the fellow, as O'Driscoll reconstructs his misplaced adolescence so as to unearth the roots of the fellow he has turn into. Lyrical, affecting, or even from time to time darkly comedian, A Runner between Falling Leaves is an unforgettable portrait of an Irish boyhood.

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Headlights, he informed me, was what they called breasts in the New Houses, and my brother had friends living in that council estate strewn with broken glass. ’ I thought that after a while maybe meant a few minutes. I was appalled: it all seemed so sordid. Anthony took a few looks at life, and a nod was as good as a wink. OK, he said to himself; this is what it’s like and I’m stuck with it. Rather than being a nomad like me, retreating through a shrivelling Platonic territory as reality 39 ODriscoll_Part1 39 15/10/01, 10:49 am      made deeper and deeper incursions, he accepted the colonizer’s rule as a fact and subverted it as best he could, by guile and deceit.

Somehow, she was able to speak words like that with affection and a quiet conviction that reassured us, battered and disconsolate as we might have been. I preferred my friend the shopkeeper to my mother, because my mother shared the same degradation as her children: she was motivated in everything she did by her fear of the tyrant. In a strange way, perhaps, she was more of a mother when she wasn’t trying to be one, by coming to us from the outside world with sympathy and a message of hope. Mothers and children weren’t highly regarded in those days.

We might even have been able to frighten my father by telling him that there was an organization in the country which considered his actions criminal and was working to bring him to justice. It was worse if you got the bata on a cold day than on a warm day. It was twice as worse if it was your turn to start the fire and you couldn’t start it, and your father the Master was standing behind you saying Go on! Are you afraid of it or what? And you weren’t afraid of the match, only afraid that the big bully-boy would hit you across the head if you couldn’t light it because your fingers were so cold.

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