cover image The Last World: A Novel with an Ovidian Repertory

The Last World: A Novel with an Ovidian Repertory

Christopher Ransmayr. Grove/Atlantic, $12 (246pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-1167-8

This beautifully evocative fable resets in contemporary time the Roman world of the poet Ovidius Naso, exiled in 8 A.D. to barbarous Tomi (in modern Bulgaria) on the Black Sea. Naso's friend Cotta is seeking the poet in Tomi, now an iron-mining town, among characters who are modern counterparts of mythic figures in Naso's Metamorphoses , in which humans were transformed into stars, animals, trees, rocks. Affirming their link to the savage landscape, these people reenact ancient myths, e.g., Dis and Proserpina, gods of Hades, are now Thies, a refugee German grave-digger and his quarrelsome fiancee. Cotta finds the theme of transformation in the mimes of carnival revelers, and in films projected on the slaughterhouse wall of Tereus the butcher. That great authors cannot be silenced, and that myth permeates our lives, are two messages of a book that sometimes stretches too far in its effort to emulate the style of Ovidian epic poetry. Wood's translation from the German is graceful. Ransmayr's first novel, The Terrors of Ice and Darkness , will appear in English in 1991. (Apr.)