An Imaginary Life

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An Imaginary Life
First edition (US)
Author David Malouf
Cover artist Bill Bachman
Country Australia
Language English
Publisher George Braziller (US)
Chatto & Windus (UK)
Publication date
March 1978 (US)
September 1978 (UK)
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 174 pp
ISBN 0-8076-0884-X
OCLC 3543556
LC Class PZ4.M25565 Im 1978 PR9619.3.M265

An Imaginary Life is a 1978 novella written by David Malouf.

It tells the story of the Roman poet Ovid, during his exile in Tomis.

Whilst there, Ovid lives with the natives, although he doesn't understand their language, and forms a bond with a wild boy who is found living wild in nature. The relationship between Ovid and the boy, at first one of protector and protected, becomes an alliance between two people in a foreign land.

Ovid comes to Tomis enculturated with a Roman world view and through his attempts at teaching the boy language is able to free himself from the constrictions of Latin and the encompassing perception of reality that is his only barrier against transcendence.

The novel is comparable to the poems of William Wordsworth in the idea of child and childhood affecting a perception of nature.[clarification needed] Ovid is continually searching for the Child and what he represents to him. He goes so far as to capture him in an attempt to learn from him, and to teach him language and conventions.

Malouf has been described as a post-colonialist author. He wrote this novel when issues with the treatment of the indigenous people of Australia was under question, and the White Australia Policy and paternalistic mentality were inherent in society. These values can be seen in An Imaginary Life, with the Child, so wild and close to nature, captured by an encultured person who wishes to teach him.