Romulus My Father

November 30, 2011

Romulus, My Father / Raimond Gaita
Melbourne : Text Publishing, 1998

A very thoughtful and moving account by philosopher Raimond Gaita of his father’s struggles with poverty, migration and mental illness (both his own and his first wife’s). The narrative style is very simple and matter-of-fact, but the depth of thought shines through. Not quite a conventional biography, this book is more an account of a moral life, a son’s homage to his father’s great compassion and integrity of character in the face of adversity.

Gaita writes of how the idea of tragedy “with its calm pity for the affliction it depicts” was deeply impressed upon him by the events surrounding his family, such that he sought to depict them “as the victims of misfortune, in their different ways broken by it, but never thereby diminished.”  This rings true throughout the book. Romulus, My Father deserves to sit alongside other Australian classics of biography like A. B. Facey’s A Fortunate Life.

This a perfect book to read for Movember, being both a fine account of the male friendship between Romulus and Hora (and between Hora and the author), as well as a loving and keenly observed rendering of a father-son relationship in the absence of a stable mother figure.



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