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Romulus Gaita left his home in his native Yugoslavia at the age of thirteen and came to Australia with his young wife Christine and their four-year-old son soon after the end of World War II. Tragic events where to overtake them. Raimond Gaita has an extraordinary story to tell about growing up with his father amid the stony paddocks and flowing grasses of country Australia.

Written simply and movingly, Romulus My Father is about how a compassionate and honest man taught his son the meaning of living a decent life. It is about passion, betrayal and madness, about friendship and the joy and dignity of work, about character and fate, affliction and spirituality. No one will read this wonderful book without an enhanced sense of the possibilities of being alive. (Text Publishing)

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This Text Classics edition is introduced by the Walkley Award-winning journalist Anne Manne, whose husband, Robert Manne, initially encouraged Gaita to expand the eulogy he gave at his father’s funeral into this acclaimed memoir.

“The Text Classics s are milestones in the Australian experience. They are books by our most loved writers who tell our stories. We have chosen them in the conviction that they still have much to say to us, undiminished in their power to delight, challenge and surprise us”.

(Melbourne: Text Publishing, 1988); London: Review 2020).

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Winner, Nettie Palmer Prize for Non-Fiction, Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, 1998; Shortlisted, Queensland Premier’s Award for Contribution to Public Debate, 1999; Braille Book of the Year, 1999; National Biography Award, 1999. Nominated by New Statesman, London, as one of the best books of 1999 and by The Australian Financial Review as one of the ten best books of the decade. In 2017 it was published in the Text Classics series.

In 2007 it was made into an award-winning feature film of the same name, starring Eric Bana, Frank Potente, Marton Csokas and Kodi Smit-McPhee.

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First Person – Romulus, my Father
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Romulus, My Father reads like one of those books that miraculously write themselves, that use their author simply as a medium to be born into the world.

J. M Coetzee
It is only once in a blue moon that Australian writing gets a work of such moral gravity and human charm, and the charm is all the more remarkable since moral gravity in the face of human desolation is pretty much the subject of Romulus– which makes it all the more remarkable that this was by common acclamation the best Australian non-fiction book of 1998.
Peter Craven, Australian Higher Education Supplement

This turbulent and tormented story of a migrant family’s life scarred by mental illness, skewed passions and suicide is a troubled tale relieved profoundly by compassion and honesty … it is an insight into human hope, dignity and darkness.

The Canberra Times

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

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
[Romulus, My Father] changed the quality of the literary air in this country. People often take an unusually emotional tone when they speak about it, as if it had performed for them the function that Franz Kafka demanded: “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” Reading it, with its stiff, passionate. dignity and its moral demands, can smash open a reader’s own blocked-off sorrows. Out they rush to meet those that the book relates
Helen Garner, The Monthly

Extraordinary and beautiful … a profound meditation on love and death, madness and truth, judgement and compassion. It is about so much that matters that is normally so little discussed with so little honesty.

Richard Flanagan, Sunday Age

As compelling to read as a novel … the often-beautiful evocations of landscape and the episodes of high drama painstakingly recalled … are likely to ensure that Romulus, My Father approaches the success of the book it has already been compared to, the best-selling A Fortunate Life.

Jamie Grant, Quadrant

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

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

ABC Cultural, Barcelona

Raimond Gaita’s extraordinary book was life-changing for me. In the simplest, most moving way, it articulates issues of moral responsibility, of internal longings and of the struggle to lead a good life with which I wrestle, but about which I am silent (except indirectly, in my plays).

Joanna Murray-Smith, The Age

Enthralling … courageous and deeply touching … a rare and passionate book, the like of which has seldom been seen in Australia.

Sydney Morning Herald

A story … with the simplicity of myth and the force of tragedy … I know of no other book where the love between father and son has been more beautifully expressed.

Robert Manne, Australian Book Review

This book is a gift to a man, to his vision of life and to his internal coherence– a story marked by constant wonder and the acceptances of life.

La Realidad, Barcelona

Extract

Raimond Gaita

Romulus, My Father

I have seldom seen such affliction as I saw my father suffer in those last years in Frogmore, and
I only saw it again when I worked as a student in psychiatric hospitals. He understood it before he became its victim. Some years before, while we were travelling on the motorbike, he talked about Vacek and said, ‘There is no sickness worse that mental sickness.’

I remember his words clearly. I remember the exact point where we were on the road. Most of all, I remember his strong, bare, sun-darkened arms on either side of me as I sat on the petrol tank. For me to remember his words and our surroundings so vividly, the authority with which he spoke them must have impressed me deeply. The sight of his muscular arms protected me against their terrible meaning.

The hospital represented a foreign world to
me, one whose beliefs were shaped by ideas I instinctively felt to be in conflict with those that had enabled me to understand the events
of my childhood. I could no longer see my father’s illness just from the perspective of our life at Frogmore. Strange though it may sound, my sense of that life, of the ideas that informed it, was given intensity and colour by the light and landscape of the area. The hills looked as old as the earth, because they were rounded by millennia and also because the grey and equally rounded granite boulders that stood among the long yellow grasses, sharply delineated at all times of day by the summer sun, made them look prehistoric. More than anything, however, the glorious, tall, burnt-yellow grasses (as a boy they came to my chest and sometimes over my head) moving irregularly against a deep blue sky, dominated the images of my childhood and gave colour to my freedom and also to my understanding of suffering. In the morning they inspired cheerful energy of the kind that made you whistle; at midday, in partnership with

an unforgiving sun and alive with insects and other creatures, they intimidated; but in the late afternoon, towards dusk, everything was softened by a light that graced the area in a melancholy beauty that could pierce one’s soul…

Religion, metaphysics or the notions of fate and character as they inform tragedy, are suited to that light and landscape. The assumptions
of psychiatric medicine, affected as they are by psychiatry’s debunking of metaphysics in its long struggle to become accepted as a science, were not. Life at Frogmore, in that landscape and under that light, nourished the sense, given to me by my father and Hora, of the contrast between the malleable laws and conventions made by human beings to reconcile and suit their many interests, and the uncompromising authority
of morality, always the judge, never merely the servant of our interests.

For that reason, tragedy, with its calm pity for the affliction it depicts, was the genre that first attracted my passionate allegiance: I recognised in it the concepts that had illuminated the events of my childhood. They enabled me to see Mitru, my mother, my father and Vacek, living among his boulders, as the victims of misfortune, in their different ways broken by it, but never thereby diminished.

Romulus at 50

“It’s a story of suffering: obsessive love, sexual betrayal and jealousy, abandonment of small children; violence, madness and despair; two suicides; repeated acts of forgiveness and loyalty that are nothing short of heroic; and threaded through all this, the miraculous blossoming of a child’s intellect.

The book changed the quality of the literary air in this country. People often take an unusually emotional tone when they speak about it, as if it had performed for them the function that Franz Kafka demanded: “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” Reading it, with its stiff, passionate dignity and its moral demands, can smash open a reader’s own blocked-off sorrows. Out they rush to meet those that the book relates.”

Helen Garner, The Monthly

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