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Raimond Gaita’s, Romulus My Father, is an iconic and deeply loved book. In After Romulus, Gaita revisits the world of his classic memoir about his boyhood in central Victoria.

He writes about Hora, who was an inspiration to him throughout his life, about the making of the acclaimed film starring Eric Bana, about ideas of truth, the limits of character, and the conflict between love and morality. And, most movingly, about his mother Christine and his longing for her. (Text Publishing)

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Raimond Gaita

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A danger of being prescribed for schools. Though perhaps the nails make that obvious.

See Romulus My Father

This is the kind of writing that is so brave it makes you flinch, so profound it makes you examine yourself, and so moving it makes you see life afresh. I was entranced as usual by Rai Gaita’s limpid style, and his signature combination of philosophical intellect and warm heart.

Anna Funder, Readings, Best Books of 2011

Those who skip introductions should not ignore this one: Gaita in After Romulus is wearing several hats and explains them usefully here. The book’s tone and vocabulary change radically with, and even within, each chapter. Memoirist, philosopher, teacher, eulogist, critic, poet – Gaita employs all these voices . . . After Romulus blends story and commentary in a way that shows Gaita the writer at the peak of his powers . . .in a book full of extraordinary revelations, [the final chapter about his mother] will stay long in the reader’s memory. On the book’s cover, Christine’s young son stretches a confident arm across his mother as they stand in the shallows. She smiles gently – fragile, beautiful and doomed as a mayfly.

Sydney Morning Herald

The result is a book of five long essays as original and compelling as the story that inspired them . . . Gaita writes unforgettably well about the difficulty of [the] landscape, the “aggressive desolation” of its bleak midday light. The passages in which he connects its hard beauty to a boyhood perception of freedom and the “gift of life” are the kind of writing that can change the way you see the world . . . [His] continuing feeling of loss and remorse [concerning Christine] is poured into the book’s final part, a sensuous and heartbroken essay about his mother’s absence and presence in his life. In Romulus, it was somehow the resilience of the young Rai that made the story bearable. Here what’s almost unbearable is the fact that for the 65-year-old Gaita, the struggle to understand his mother’s suffering and love for him, continues, painfully, unresolvably, 50 years later. It’s impossible not to be moved by this achingly raw remembrance.

Sunday Age

Raimond Gaita’s memoir Romulus, My Father … explores migration, marriage and madness in passionate doses; themes delivered with an alertness of mind, a subtlety of humour and a fully exposed and often frightened heart.

Tony Maniaty, Australian

And after reading After Romulus, a new collection of essays in which Gaita reflects on his memoir and its rich afterlife and the debts not paid in full, what strikes me is this: that a book written in three weeks (OK, the first draft was), a ratty little volume really, could do such immeasurable good in the world. Somehow, what was true of Romulus, of the light his goodness cast upon the world – a light that made it possible for his son Raimond to survive childhood without bitterness, to love without shame or condescension his sick mother who had abandoned him – this light binds together and gleams out of the book as well.

Maria Tumarkin, Australian

Gaita has had 15 years since his book [Romulus, My Father] was published to ponder things. And being the fine philosopher he is, he ponders well. He wonders aloud in these beautifully written essays whether he represented his father’s goodness in the way he intended. . . .The final chapter is devoted to [his mother, Christine]. It is a towering piece, intimate and rational, a love song, an elegy . . .. This is a moving book.

Courier Mail

Gaita the philosopher is at work here. He is again standing in the boots of the young boy in his drive to find perspective, but he is also reaching out into the world of ideas. You could say that he is searching for life in the ideas, and ideas in the life. The two cannot exist apart. Not that these essays are penned in an academic tower, with barely visible threads grounding the words in a real world of grime, failure, needs and love. It is written in plain language as though he wants to avoid the pitfalls of excess sentimentality and secure instead some kind of truth (as a philosopher, Gaita is well aware of the tumultuous road “truth” has travelled over the past centuries).

Gaita has suggested he wrote the first memoir as a poem (think of this as the way plain sentences can become poetic in their grace and simplicity). Interestingly, I think the essays achieve a greater degree of poetry than the first book. This second one needs to be read at a slower pace and is all the more rewarding for that. . . . This extraordinary book set me reflecting upon my own residency in the world – my own decency, condescension, loves and truths.

New Zealand Herald

Here is a marvellous book … an original meditation on life itself: character, conversation, friendship, morality and the terror of insanity. All in all, an inspiring if challenging way to start the new millennium.

The Spectator, London

The moving intensity of the narrative makes Romulus, My Father a triumph of intercultural acceptance– it presents a picture of work and suffering, of a generation labouring under necessity but preserving their dignity.

Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung

In After Romulus Raimond Gaita invites us into the far reaches of his considerable mind and the deep places of his soul. This will be felt as privilege by most readers, as it should. And it is, as it turns out, not just a sequel, but an extension of all that was good in his initial story. It is a book to stretch the mind and enlarge the heart.

Canberra Times

After Romulus is an eloquent meditation on love, friendship and loss. Gaita’s loss of his mother at an early age reminds us of Emily Dickinson’s: “The craving is upon the child like a claw it cannot remove.” The reader is compelled to admiration by this brave and beautiful book.

Andrew Reimer, Sydney Morning Herald

As Gaita himself counsels in the book, some of the essays need to be read slowly and more than once to grasp their meaning. Rather than this being a chore, it’s a deeply rewarding experience. Gaita’s writing is lucid and uncluttered by sentimentality, but still it manages to be both warm and inclusive.”

Adelaide Advertiser

Gaita is a brave, decent and emotionally intelligent man…we need more like him

Stephen Romei, Australian, The Australian

Told with impeccable simplicity, with great philosophical depth and a complete absence of rhetoric … A true narrative gem.

ABC Cultural, Barcelona

Extract from John Coetzee’s Launch Speech

‘I had not heard of a new book to be named After Romulus until, a few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from Michael Heyward asking me if I would speak at the launch in Adelaide.

I agreed, but with misgivings. I looked upon Romulus, My Father as one of those miraculous books that write themselves, that use their author as a medium, a means to get into the world. Once they are in the world books like that have an unpredictable life of their own. It didn’t seem to me there was anything to be gained by the author-medium belatedly chasing after it, trying to catch and tame it. I feared that this new book, After Romulus, would chase after Romulus My Father, in a futile quest to tame it, to bring it to order and explain what it meant.

Then I read the book Michael sent me, and at once I saw how wrong I was. At the heart of After Romulus lies the tribute that Gaita had not been able to write when he was writing the tribute to his father – had not been able to write because, as we learn, he had not at the time of Romulus, My Father been able to master the feelings that memories of his mother summoned up, or, to put it in more writerly terms, had not been able to find the voice in which to speak that tribute.

Now that tribute comes, in the form of a long essay called “An Unassuageable Longing,” the most personal and most poignant of the five essays that make up the new book.

This essay, and the essay devoted to the later lives of personages we meet with in Romulus, My Father, are in more or less narrative vein. Of the remaining essays, two are denser in texture, more recognizably philosophical in their concerns, though never difficult or abstruse – Gaita’s writing, including his academic writing, has always been a model of clarity.

A book launch is not the right occasion to go in depth into such rich, mature pieces of writing as these, so let me just say that they address some of the great moral issues in any examined life, issues to which the young Raimond Gaita was introduced by his father and his father’s friend Hora back in the 1950s.

One of the features of Gaita as a philosopher is his interest in embodied values, in an ethical truth that lives in the world. It is not because he preaches certain values but because he embodies certain values that the unlettered blacksmith Romulus Gaita comes to serve as a lifelong moral compass to his son and, via his son, to many more of us.’

Extract

Raimond Gaita

After Romulus

“When I gave public lectures, or spoke at a conference for some years after the film Romulus, My Father was released in 2007, I was often asked whether I would agree to a screening of the film and then to speak about it. Much of the material in After Romulus developed from the talks I gave after those screenings.”

 

Because the ferocity of Hora’s scorn for arrogance and humbug invariably gave way to laughter, his stories never inclined me to cynicism. Nor, perhaps surprisingly, did they tempt me to become a debunker. But when I try to understand why the inspiring examples of a few men and women should count against the folly and much worse of millions (as it then seemed), when I try to understand why those stories have nourished me throughout my life, I know the answer must include the way Hora was so distinctively present in their telling, his openness to the world and the quality and many tones of his laughter. And, strange though it may sound—indeed, I fear that it may sound obscurantist—it must include his sensuous love of the sun and the water, and how, in between stories, he plunged into the reservoir from the boat, swimming sideways, forwards and backwards, splashing and whooping. From none of that can I abstract the distinctive quality of his humanism. In that virile, sun-drenched, summer-coloured humanism I found food to nourish hope. The physical details I have dwelled on express the embodied nature of our at-homeness in the world.

His example—the way he became an inspiration to me—was a function of how he spoke of the men and women who had nourished his spirit and how I saw that spirit animating his life. For me (unconsciously at the time, to be sure) the importance of his presence in my life and of the stories he told did not lie in the effect they had on my tendency to pessimism or to optimism or, indeed, on any psychological dispositions that would colour my orientation to the future. Their importance lay in the redemptive light they cast on the world. It enabled me to see the world as a good world in ways that were not conditional on an assessment of whether the good outweighed the evil in it. When I wrote Romulus, My Father I hoped that would show, not as a fact about me, but in the way I depicted the suffering of the people I wrote about.

After sailing we went home to our dilapidated farmhouse, where we—Hora, my father and I—cooked dinner on our one-burner kerosene stove. Later in the evening, by the light of a kerosene lamp, Hora and my father talked about all manner of things. My father had four years of primary schooling and read only The Sun newspaper. Hora told him many of the stories he told me and together they marvelled at the human spirit. Simone Weil, when she was a radical activist working at the Renault factory in France before the war, said that only he very greatest literature was good enough for those who suffered the affliction of soul-destroying work. She read her translations of Greek tragedies to large groups of workers. When I hear talk of elitism in discussions about literature and art more generally, I remember that, and I remember my father and Hora in the kitchen filled with cigarette smoke and the smell of slivovitz.

Another Extract from After Romulus (about my mother)

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