THE LAST WORLD by Christoph Ransmayr


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A speculative tale, by German novelist Ransmayr, based on Ovid's banishment to the Black Sea in A.D. 8. Publius Ovidius Naso, referred to here as Naso, was the highly praised Roman poet of elegiac verse, best remembered for his erotic poetry and Metamorphoses. Readers studious enough to examine Ransmayr's glossary of works and figures--titled an ""Ovidian Repertory""--will also learn that he was exiled from Rome under mysterious circumstances, without trial. Did he cause offense to Augustus I? Was he involved in a failed political intrigue? Or did his erotic writings finally force expulsion from polite society? Certainly enough historical ambiguity exists to give Ransmayr the elbow room required here, allowing the author to shift the focus from ovid himself to his first generation of readers. Adopting ovid's historical friend Cotta, Ransmayr depicts the search that Cotta might have undertaken for Ovid when news of the poet's death filtered back to Rome. Cotta tracks Ovid back to an obscure Roman outpost in the Black Sea, Tomi--where he discovers Pythagoras, Ovid's ailing servant, and vestiges of Ovid's recent past. In the end, no ovid, but a sampling of local metamorphoses--yes, a local turns to stone here--that bear out Ovid's maxim that all remains in a state of flux. Ambitious, stylish historical work.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1990
Publisher: Grove Weidenfeld