Romulus My Father Essay Belonging

Romulus My Father Essay Belonging-47
Nor could he ever quite discover in Australia the feeling of an intensely involved community life that he had experienced as a boy and young man living in Europe, defined in the main through conversation with friends and neighbours.

Nor could he ever quite discover in Australia the feeling of an intensely involved community life that he had experienced as a boy and young man living in Europe, defined in the main through conversation with friends and neighbours.

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Romulus Gaita was a Yugoslav-born blacksmith who, under trying circumstances, left his home for Germany, and there met and married Christine Dörr, a local woman from a middle-class background.

In 1946 they had a child, Raimond, and in 1950 the family migrated on an assisted passage to Australia and settled in central Victoria.

He had discovered again the ‘delicate beauty’ of central Victoria, and the ways in which his father and those close to him were illuminated by it: ‘I hoped that the events and the characters of the story I told would be bathed in the light and colours of that landscape.’ The result is that Gaita’s memory of the landscape forms part of the memoir’s structure and themes, and helps to shape the often troubling connections that are formed between beauty, madness, and suffering.

Gaita has referred to Romulus, My Father as a ‘tragic poem’.

As Helen Garner has described it, Gaita’s narrative voice is ‘wonderfully serious, and terrified of being sentimental’.

Like a tragic poem, the voice seems to accept that the human condition is, as Gaita puts it, ‘defined by our vulnerability to misfortune’. Coetzee puts it in his comments about the book, Romulus ‘comes to serve as a lifelong moral compass to his son and, via his son, to us as readers’.After first being housed separately, they eventually made a home together at ‘Frogmore’, a modest farmhouse six kilometres from Baringhup, a village of some ten houses, a school and church, and a hotel.This experience of upheaval and change forms the opening context of the memoir, and portrays a first encounter with Australia that was shared by thousands of postwar migrants.Writing Romulus, My Father, he says, allowed his return to a childhood love of the country.The first draft was completed very quickly, in three weeks in a house close to where he lived as a boy.Memoirs are by nature inductive, for most of the content is specific to the person writing.And yet the task of a memoir is more than mere individual recollection.She finds life at the farmhouse terribly alienating: ‘A dead red gum stood only a hundred metres from the house and became for my mother a symbol of her desolation.’ is not principally a migration story, but the family’s move to Australia and the reaction to the landscape are important for both the events that follow and Gaita’s subsequent memories of them.As a student, Gaita went to the University of Leeds, where he undertook his doctorate in philosophy. As he explains in After Romulus (2011), a book of essays about the memoir, during those years in England he became accustomed to the more ‘humanised landscapes’ of Europe, and indeed came close to understand how his mother had once seen Australia.As in life more generally, memoirists may be prompted to return to the past by an event in the present, and this prompting – a kind of task sheet for the memoir – will naturally influence how they remember and write.The connection between what and how we remember is especially important in the case of Romulus, My Father, a relationship between form and content that we might look at more closely in three aspects of its composition history.

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