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 . 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. Evasive Precision: Problems of Historicity in David Malouf’s An Imaginary Life. Ten years ago Harry Heseltine asked a critical question about David Malouf’s An .
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Dead Babies in late Victorian Adelaide. Chronology of the Grossmith brothers. Contemporary reviews of the ‘Diary’. Evelyn Waugh annotates the ‘Diary’.
Malouf’s ‘An Imaginary Life’: article – Peter Morton’s Website
Narrative technique davdi the ‘Diary’. Origins of the ‘Diary’. Masterman, ‘In Peril of Change’. Masterman, ‘The Condition of England’. Wells, ‘The War of the Worlds’. Thomas Crosland, ‘The Suburbans’. Walter Gallichan, ‘The Blight of Respectability’. Barry Pain, ‘Eliza Getting On’. Florence Marryat, ‘There is No Death’. Keble Howard, ‘The Smiths of Surbiton’. Pett Ridge, ‘Outside the Radius’.
Andom, ‘Martha and I’. The Victorian clerk’s lot in life. Was George Grossmith a drug addict? Was Mr Pooter Jack the Ripper? Who were the Grossmiths? Who wrote the ‘Diary’?
Information about obtaining ‘FIRE’.
Some thoughts about the Woomera Archives. Woomera dream turns to dust article.
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Huxley’s ‘Point Counter Point’: Malouf’s ‘An Imaginary Life’: Novels promoting Oxford as ‘Shakespeare’: Starke’s ‘Twist in the Tale’: The End of Parapsychology?: A ‘literary’ working man ‘Thyrza’. A imaginafy of private means ‘Sleeping Fires’. A night market in the slums ‘Workers in the Dawn’.
A politician on social realities ‘Denzil Quarrier’. A sunset at Athens ‘New Grub Street’. Biffen’s suicide lfie Grub Street’. Burying the poor ‘Demos’. Crouch End horrors ‘The Nether World’. North London Squalor ‘Thyrza’. On newspapers ‘The Crown of Life’.
Open air sex ‘In the Year of Jubilee’. Suburban blight ‘In the Year of Jubilee’. Suburban female ferocities ‘In the Year of Jubilee’.
The pains of writer’s block ‘New Grub Street’. The workrooms of Clerkenwell ‘The Nether World’. Wonderful visions ‘By the Ionian Sea’. Allusions to Gissing malkuf George Orwell. Gissing in prison The death of Nell: Pife ‘The Odd Women’ Broadview edition. Orwell on Gissing Revisiting ‘By the Ionian Sea’. Bibliographical, biographical, critical, etc. Chronological checklist of works. Five Rare Stories by GA. Grant Allen Fiction Grant Allen Fiction onwards.
Grant Allen Non-fiction Grant Allen Non-fiction onwards. Grant Allen primary sources: Interview with Grant Allen Photos with Grant Allen associations.
Reviews of GA’s work. Rhyming letter from Jamaica Baron’s ‘De Vere is Shakespeare’. Harrison’s ‘The Dark Angel’. Huxley’s ‘The Human Situation’. Miller’s ‘The Body in Question’. Perera’s ‘Reaches of Empire’. Schell’s ‘Fate of the Earth’.
Toole’s ‘Confederacy of Dunces’. Trevelyan’s ‘A Pre-Raphaelite Circle’. Imaginarry ‘The Real Oliver Twist’.
Walvin’s ‘Beside the Seaside’. Heseltine argued that he is both. In fact, though, only the second half of imagimary rhetorical question has been taken up in the decade since. Everyone agrees that the novel is allegorical and just as much davkd more, indeed – about Australia than it is about Ovid on the Black Sea, even though colonised Australia itself, nearly eighteen centuries below the curve of the temporal horizon, is literally the unspeakable.
We may concede at once that, in this respect, An Imaginary Life has ambitions, and unquestionably is successful, beyond the ambit of any realistic historical fiction. Its ability to offer a mischievous interplay between the exiled sophisticated poet with his values ‘gay, anarchic, ephemeral and.
So has the way Malouf finds deep possibilities in the theme of exile – there are the obvious allusions to the convict experience, but also to the way in which the fate of the exiled poet, torn between Rome and Tomis, becomes a powerful analogy for the complex fate of an antipodean writer of ‘European’ reflexes and ancestry to feel exiled wherever he happens to be: No wonder that within a decade of publication An Imaginary Life was being spoken of as one of the classics of Australian literature, and the continual critical attention it has received since then has confirmed its high reputation.
A clever, sustained allegory, yes; and it is a testament to the richness of this text that interpretations of the central themes and concerns of An Imaginary Life have been extremely varied.
Everyone starts from Malouf’s own assertion that he is indifferent to the historicity of Ovid the man: Malouf is clearly referring to the Metamorphoses.
He means the two-way process of metamorphosis charted in the novel: So much is agreed. Beyond that, we have had a Hindu reading Brady and a Jungian one Bishop ; it has been read as an existential drama in which the hero chooses his being, with the Child as Proppian Helper Neilsen ; or as charting the double, opposing movement of “Ovid” and the Child through the Lacanian stages Nettelbeck It has been read as a ‘declaration of homosexual desire’ Indyk 18 ; as a ‘ post -colonial’ discourse whose dreamy illogicalities serve to break down Eurocentric binary polarities Griffiths 61 ; as a disruptive, aggressively anti -colonial discourse Wearneor, more placidly, as a Green, serene ‘allegory of the relationship between humanity and nature as it might be, ideally, in Australia or elsewhere’ McDonald Despite this variety of interpretation of what is universally agreed to be a strange and complex work, almost no one has spent any time on the first half of Heseltine’s question.
Most critics have either ignored or briefly dismissed the issue: McDonald, for instance, goes so far as to say that ‘that the text itself as an imaginary life of Ovid is, however, the least significant reading of the title’ Malouf himself has given no encouragement to those who may want to secure the novel as an adjunct to classical studies. His very title – certainly a phrase of echoing subtlety – implicitly disdains any such readerly quest.
In his ‘Afterword’ Malouf attempts to pre-empt any such consideration by defining his novel as ‘neither historical fiction nor biography, but a fiction with its roots in possible event [ sic ]’ And elsewhere he has been equally dismissive, almost flippant: I could be a kind of anthropologist of something that didn’t previously exist’ Tipping These assertions are questionable.
Putting aside all the scholarship on the ethnology of Romania in antiquity, is there truly a disjunction between what Malouf calls ‘historical fiction’ on the one hand, and ‘fiction with its roots in possible event’ on the other?
To take just one element in An Imaginary Life, the genesis of the feral Child: If Ovid did capture and rear a wild child at Tomis then he forgot to mention it; but feral children were known in classical times Herodotus mentions themso the situation is conceivable enough.