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An Imaginary Life
     

An Imaginary Life

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by David Malouf
 

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In the first century A.D., Publius Ovidius Naso, the most urbane and irreverent poet of imperial Rome, was banished to a remote village on the edge of the Black Sea. From these sparse facts, Malouf has fashioned an audacious and supremely moving novel. Marooned on the edge of the known world, exiled from his native tongue, Ovid depends on the kindness of barbarians

Overview

In the first century A.D., Publius Ovidius Naso, the most urbane and irreverent poet of imperial Rome, was banished to a remote village on the edge of the Black Sea. From these sparse facts, Malouf has fashioned an audacious and supremely moving novel. Marooned on the edge of the known world, exiled from his native tongue, Ovid depends on the kindness of barbarians who impale their dead and converse with the spirit world.Then he becomes the guardian of a still more savage creature, a feral child who has grown up among deer. What ensues is a luminous encounter between civilization and nature, as enacted by a poet who once cataloged the treacheries of love and a boy who slowly learns how to give it.

"A work of unusual intelligence and imagination, full of surprising images and insights...One of those rare books you end up underlining and copying out into notebooks and reading out loud to friends."—The New York Times Book Review

Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
Ovid's Metamorphoses, says Madeleine Foray, "changes in the hands of each new translator and adapter." Her introduction to a new edition of Arthur Golding's 1567 English translation of the Metamorphoses shows how he Christianizes Ovid, transforming his temples into churches with spires. The translation was influential with Shakespeare and Spenser, but its bombastic style later fell out of fashion. One recent editor complains that Golding turned "the sophisticated Roman into a ruddy country gentleman with tremendous gusto and a gift for energetic doggerel."

A few years ago, the sensual savagery of Ted Hughes's Tales from Ovid won wide acclaim. Meanwhile, novels like David Malouf's An Imaginary Life and Jane Alison's The Love Artist have built their narratives on what little we know of Ovid's actual biography. In Malouf's book, Ovid finds and civilizes a feral child, in a clever reversal of the people-to-animal transformations of the Metamorphoses. Most recently, Mary Zimmerman's award-winning play Metamorphoses presents the work as a parable about the healing power of love.

By contrast, Alessandro Boffa's comic novel, You're An Animal, Viskovitz!, sees metamorphosis as a cosmic bad joke; the hero is figured as a different animal in each chapter. During his time as a snail, he acts out an undignified parody of the Narcissus myth; Viskovitz is attracted by his own reflection in water, but the consummation makes for one of the oddest sex scenes of recent years: "I felt the warm pressure of the rhinophor slipping under my shell, and a strong agitation froze the center of my being."(Leo Carey)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679767930
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/28/1996
Series:
Vintage International Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
154
Sales rank:
425,947
Product dimensions:
5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.45(d)

Meet the Author

David Malouf is the author of ten novels and six volumes of poetry. His novel The Great World was awarded both the prestigious Commonwealth Prize and the Prix Femina Estranger. Remembering Babylon was short-listed for the Booker Prize. He lives in Sydney, Australia.

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An Imaginary Life 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
David Malouf is one of Australia's greatest writers, very much hidden if compared with the public and more accesible names. His novels are brilliant, and he's perhaps the most Australian of all, avoiding to stick exclusively to Australian plots and history. 'Imaginary Life' is a novel worth reading, especially for his classic treatment of a classic theme, his imagination, the greatly crafted 'what if?' game that worked perfectly here. The honesty of his depiction of Rome can't be unmatched, as in the few novels that have earned too this distinction. Highly recommended.