An Imaginary Life
"The Roman poet Ovid, in exile, tells the story of his encounter with a wild boy, brought up among wolves in the snow. At first the poet assumes the role of protector of the boy; gradually, however, the roles of protector and protected are reversed as the two form a curious and touching alliance."
"This is an astonishingly beautiful book. The prose is unfailngly elegant and precise, carrying with it at times great weight and wisdom, at time casual or sensitive observation, but always with marvellous polish and grace...it is a novel of exile and a return to the very edge of memory." - Mark Strand
"David Malouf...has produced a work of unusual intelligence and imagination." - Katha Pollitt, New York Times
"He has created that rare thing, a novel demanding the same sort of close and imaginative attention from the reader that has to be given to a poem." - British Book News
"In short space, Mr Malouf puts on a dazzling literary display in this arresting, original, lyrical work." - Edmund Fuller, Wall Street Journal
"This most civilized book, written with simplicity and grace, is a classic of this decade - and will endure as a classic." - Helen Frizell, Australian Book Review
When I first saw the child I cannot say. I see myself - I might be three or four years old - playing under the olives at the edge of our farm, just within call of the goatherd, and I am talking to the child, whether for the first time or not I cannot tell at this distance. The goatherd is dozing against an olive bole, his head rolled back to show the dark line of his jaw and the sinews of his scraggy neck, the black mouth gaping. Bees shift amongst the herbs. The air glitters. It must be late summer. There are windblown poppies in the grass. A black he-goat is up on his hind legs reaching for vineshoots.
The child is there. I am three or four years old. It is late summer. It is spring. I am six. I am eight. The child is always the same age. We speak to one another, but in a tongue of our own devising. My brother, who is a year older, does not see him, even when he moves close between us.
He is a wild boy.
From the Picador paperback edition, 1984.
This novel won the NSW Premier's Literary Award in 1979.
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Last modified: April 18, 2002.