The Secret World of Shlomo Fine

A Colonial Requiem



I am very pleased to introduce this remarkable book. Part history, part autobiography, it takes us on a journey through the author’s childhood, growing up next to a psychiatric hospital where her formidable father was a psychiatrist, in what was then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). There were happy times playing with the family’s servants and running wild in the bushland with a freedom unknown to children today. But everything was overshadowed by her father’s harshness and rages, and the haunted figures that could be glimpsed or heard behind the walls of the hospital grounds. British colonialism and the struggle for liberation formed the background to her childhood. Kate’s family were members of the white minority, and yet their lives too were touched by violence in many forms.


The book is interspersed with some of Kate’s visits to her therapist, whom she sought out after her life started unravelling in her mid-fifties. After much detective work and agonising self-reflection, Kate’s father’s secret history emerges, along with heartrending details about her mother, throwing light on Kate’s own struggles. All of their stories are intertwined with the bigger narrative of the colonial regime which imported Western psychiatry as one of its tools of domination. Kate was unknowingly brought up in the shadow of ruthless brutality inflicted on members of the indigenous population who had been deemed ‘mad.’ Her father’s job was to perpetuate this process in the name of psychiatry.


This is a profoundly thought-provoking book about trauma, oppression and domination, but also, ultimately, about truth-seeking, healing and freedom.

Lucy Johnstone - Lead author with Professor Mary Boyle of the Power Threat Meaning Framework (PTMF)

The Secret World of Shlomo Fine: A Colonial Requiem is published by Amagugu Publishers in Zimbabwe. Pathisa Nyathi has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate for his dedication in keeping alive the culture of his people.  All proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to Pathisa and his daughter Fikile who have set up a fund in Zimbabwe. Please go to my Contact page if you would like to get in touch.

© K.M.R. Smythe

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