After Romulus by Raimond Gaita

Five essays, reflections on life

In this book, published in 2010, Raimond Gaita revisits the world he writes of in ‘Romulus, My Father’ of the events after the book (and film) were released. There are five essays in this book:

‘A Summer-Coloured Humanism’ about Hora;

‘Character and Its Limits’ and ‘Truth and Truthfulness in Narrative’

Both touch on the philosophical debt he owes his father and Hora;

‘From Book to Film’ is about the making of the film ‘Romulus, My Father’; and

‘An Unassuageable Longing’ is about his mother.

As indicated in his introduction, Mr Gaita wrote these essays at different times, and they have different styles. The five essays are united by Mr Gaita’s search to understand the people he is writing about and to represent them (and their influences) as accurately as he can. While his father Romulus is central to his life, others (especially Hora) were important.

‘It is bitterness rather than pain that corrodes the soul, deforms personality and character and tempts us to misanthropy.’

But these are not simply autobiographical musings about individuals and influences. Mr Gaita invites the reader to think, to reflect on what constitutes truth, on the complexities of existence (especially for those with mental illness). And in the background always is Romulus himself, with his principles of integrity, truthfulness, and ethical behaviour.

I read these essays slowly, from a biographical perspective as well as trying to appreciate some of the philosophical issues raised. When reading ‘An Unassuageable Longing’ I felt for the small child who had such limited opportunity to know his mother. These are essays to read and reflect on, to revisit.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith