David Malouf’s fictional story Imaginary Life was by far my favorite piece that we have read. Malouf’s incorporation of the little known facts about Ovid and his life into an imagined story of his exile was great. Although components of this book are similar to many of the pieces of literature that we have read thus far for this class, the piece that it shares most in common with is Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Not only is the protagonist Ovid himself, but the theme of transformation and metamorphosis is present throughout the book.
For Malouf, the word metamorphosis does not merely apply to myths and legends. It is an occurrence that every human being goes through. A quote that really stuck out for me was, “We have some power in us that knows its own ends. It is that that drives us on to what we must finally become. We have only to conceive of the possibility and somehow the spirit works in is to make it actual. This is the true meaning of transformation. This is the real metamorphosis” (64). I feel like this is a very powerful idea. Although this intentional form of metamorphosis is much different than the kind represented in Ovid’s stories, it is refreshing and encouraging. I love that he states that we can change according to our hopes and beliefs, and that it is not all out of our control. It gives hope to those of us who want to become better, or different, people.
Intentional change, however, is not the only one presented in the book. Ovid and the Child both transform when transplanted into a world different then their own. Immersion in another culture, in my opinion, always changes a person and the way they view the world. At one point Ovid even says “Seeing the world through this other tongue I see it differently. It is a different world” (65). The incorporation of another language into his life adds new facets to both him as a person and to the way in which he views the world. The Child helps expand his view on the world even more, and causes Ovid to transform one again. Ovid sees himself in a different way after spending time with the Child, and as death takes over he feels that he is one with the universe. It is a beautiful moment in the text.
Another transformation, although much more subtle, was that of the seasons. I loved the way in which Ovid incorporated the different seasons and the way in which they affected the lives of the people. In winter, the birds are gone and the people must stay inside. The spring, however, is filled with joy and new life. The seasons not only transform the world of nature, but everything that lives in it and is a part of it.
I really enjoyed Malouf’s book. I thought that it did a good job of incorporating much of what we have discussed overall in this class. I loved his own forms of metamorphosis as well, and the way in which it coincides with Ovid’s. The book almost brought new light to some of the other pieces as well, and helped me to further enjoy them.