Romulus, My Father
by Raimond Gaita
Teaching notes prepared for VATE members
by Bev Rangott
|1. |Introduction |Page | 1 | |2. |Ways into the text |Page | 3 | |3. |Summary of the text |Page | 5 | |4. |A perspective on the text |Page | 9 | |5. |Character, style and setting |Page |11 | |6. |A guided approach to selected passages |Page |18 | |7. |Activities for exploring the text |Page |20 | |8. |References |Page |23 | | |Appendix 1: Chronology of events |Page |24 |
Page numbers in these notes refer to Gaita, Raimond, Romulus, My Father, Text, 1998. Section 1.
An introduction to Romulus, My Father
Romulus, My Father is a memoir and a tribute by the author, Raimond Gaita, to his father. As is explained in the Acknowledgements section of the book, it began with the eulogy delivered by Gaita at his father’s funeral. This was subsequently published in Quadrant magazine and finally became this book, after a positive response to the journal publication.
The title suggests the affection, admiration and gratitude Gaita feels for his father and what he learnt from him of the values and integrity by which Romulus Gaita lived. The text briefly describes Romulus Gaita’s early life in Europe, and his arrival in Australia as an assisted immigrant with his wife and young son (Raimond), and then follows their subsequent lives, mostly in central Victoria. Although other family members and friends make brief or occasionally extended appearances in the text, Romulus is at its centre.
Raimond Gaita has explained that he tried to keep himself out of the book as much as possible. Of course he was ‘present’ throughout the text. However, this is his father’s story. He is grateful to many people who were instrumental and influential in his life, but he has left them out of this account because it was not his (Raimond’s) story. Readers can easily see the consciously narrow range of focus in this book. Raimond Gaita’s primary purpose is to describe his father’s life, as well as the ways in which his father’s life and example had such a profound impact on the development of his own philosophy and understanding of ‘a common humanity’. This phrase, ‘common humanity’, occurs in the final paragraph of Raimond Gaita’s eulogy for his father and became the title of one of his subsequent books on philosophy.
The story encompasses Romulus’s relationships with Christine (his wife), his son (Raimond), his friend (Hora), Hora's brother and Christine's lover (Mitru), his second wife (Milka) and peripherallly with others: both 'old' Australians who were neighbours or friends or with whom he worked, and members of the Romanian community in Europe and Australia.
The book also confronts and describes madness and depression. It does so in such a way as to allow the reader to begin to understand the horror of the experience and the devastation these afflictions wrought on the sufferers and their loved ones, without reducing the people concerned to mere victims. We do not just see Romulus, Christine and Vacek, condescendingly, as pitiable people –although of course, they are to be pitied. They do not...
References: |1960s, 1970s |Romulus recovers from illness and becomes well known in the district |
|1981 |Romulus and Raimond make a headstone for Christine’s grave |
 Gaita, Raimond (2004) ‘Was he really like that? Truth and biography’, transcript of address given at the VATE State Conference, La Trobe University, 23-4 July.
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