Nature and Initiation in An Imaginary Life and Remembering Babylon

Jörg Heinke, University of Kiel, Germany

Comparing the three novels at this point one can see that the protagonists in An Imaginary Life and Remembering Babylon, Ovid and Janet, experience a kind of initiation in which they get closer to nature and at the same time to themselves. The common ground of being is obvious for them in those moments. The strangeness of-- in both novels -- unfriendly and hostile countries seem for a moment transcended and understood. In both cases, Janet and Ovid have no choice to fall back on learned behaviour but can only trust themselves.

For Carney and Adair the natural environment with its seemingly limitless limitations is the frame in which their physical isolation leads to a mental intimacy. For both of them the hut in which they meet and the vast country around them are a double prison: in the one you can't move anywhere because it's too small, in the other one you can move but you don't get anywhere because it's too big. The only possibilities to escape this double prison are death (in Carney case) or the concentration on to the self (Adair). The initiation process for Adair is the rethinking and reconsideration of his life.

This document has been adapted by kind permission of the author from the English summary of "The Phenomenon of the Stranger in David Malouf's An Imaginary Life, Remembering Babylon and The Conversations at Curlow Creek," his University of Kiel Master's thesis. You can contact Jörg Heinke at or visit his personal home page.

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