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The Last World

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  772 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Acclaimed as a modern masterpiece and as one of the most important novels of our time. The Last World is the story of a young man's quest for the exiled poet Ovid and the masterwork he has consigned to the flames. Ransmayr has created a visionary landscape, a transformed place where the ancient world meets the twentieth century. A metaphysical thriller both compelling and profo ...more
Paperback, 246 pages
Published May 3rd 1996 by Grove Press (first published 1988)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  772 ratings  ·  63 reviews

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Vit Babenco
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
All times are one time and the past is frozen into the present.
“By now the herdsman was only dreaming his cow, and the Roman was dreaming the herdsman, and moon and mountains were mere chimeras – when the music suddenly broke off and a shadow appeared at Naso’s door, glided over the threshold, reached for the ax lying on the floor, leaped at the sleeping monstrosity. And struck.
Under the savage force of the ax blow the herdsman’s eyes fell away like scales, scattering into the corner
Jul 19, 2010 rated it did not like it
Ovid offers great material- the sexy wunderkind poet who mysteriously enraged the Emperor and got banished to the end of the world, whose works inspired Christopher Marlowe's loveliest lyrics, most of Shakespeare's plays and provided the only emotionally meaningful response to 9/11 in New York.

So why are novels about him such a snore?

The Last World is another David Malouf clone (tho as it predates DM's Ovid book, maybe it's its inspiration). Pages and pages of descriptions of the pits of the e
Mar 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
It's is very difficult to accept that I read this novel 10 years ago. I remember that winter very well; it was one of my first working at a bookstore on the Jersey shore, alone and cold in an unheated building. The sky was always gray, even when it wasn't. I identified with the exiled Ovid and found in Ransmayr's uncanny juxtaposition of the ancient and modern (a landscape littered with rusting buses and stone temples) something entirely new.

Up until that time, I was still knee-deep
Jan 16, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 1001-list-books
I am a bit sick of reading rubbish over-written novels at the moment. The Last World attempts to retell the final story of Ovid, Metamorphoses, by describing the travels of Cotta, who visits the town of his exile in Greece (?). Tomi, the Iron making town, is a weird anachronism of a place, with projectors and films but no cars or electric lights. Essentially Cotta talks to lots of people, spends three pages describing the dissolving of slugs with vinegar, and getting a little spooked by his over ...more
Bryn Hammond
Jul 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: imagined-fiction
I enjoyed this fantasy on the Metamorphoses come to life, if largely for its gorgeous description. Ovid I remember for his soliloquies and this is a book without characters, so I'm not sure how 'like' Ovid it is.

The town on the Black Sea has early twentieth-century machinery, and these struck me as props just as you'd wheel them onto a stage, and set Richard III, say, in a fascist 30s Britain. This novel talks about totalitarianism through Augustan Rome. Cotta who goes in search of Ovid is a 'fugitive of th
Aug 21, 2008 rated it did not like it
Oh man. How did I get through it? A classics scholar tried to write a fantasy novel/pseudo-philosophical-metaphorical-alternative history. The result is completely uninteresting "reimaginings" of characters from greek and roman myth in a story about a search for the exiled Ovid. Long, repetitive descriptions of landscapes spiked with overly dramatic events which feel totally meaningless, devoid of attachment to tangible characters or the metaphysical weight the author is going for. Includes a lo ...more
Alex Sarll
Ovid's mysterious exile to the then-remote Black Sea town of Tomi, retold as a shifting and surreal detective story where all times are one, so Rome has potatoes and loudspeakers and firing squads, and Tomi communal cinema shows when the wandering projectionist comes to town, and echoes of the characters from Ovid's own poems (Echo herself among them) seem to be the only inhabitants, and all appear intent on keeping something from the protagonist. Somewhere between the original and the translati ...more
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Literature that is definitely not young adult fiction. Not sure I grasped all of it but an inspiring read.
Aug 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 1001-book-list
I picked this book out to read because it says on the front cover that it is "The most extraordinary novel since The Name of the Rose'. Well, I'm sorry, but this doesn't fulfil this promise at all! It was intriguing, but I am rather puzzled why there is any mention of modern life at all, as to all intents and purposes it is a reworking of ancient Greek legends, which could just have easily been set in ancient times. The only modern things mentioned are the cinema projectionist and a bus, and the ...more
Mar 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ransmayr wrote a fascinating novel about Cotta's search for the banished Roman poet Ovid (called with his second name Naso). The Roman Cotta is going in search to Tomi (Constanta) at the Black Sea (the end of the world) and is more and more blundering into Ovid's world, in which he's meeting protagonists from Ovid's "Metamorphoses" and coming into the world of roman and greek mythologie. In the narrative, customs and objects of the ancient world intermingle with twentieth century technology. Fic ...more
May 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Did a review of this book here:
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book took me three tries. But this time I went the whole way with it.
It starts out confusing, yields into chaos, and ends with one point; We are all up against a wall, and that wall is us, all the us inside one Me, and You.

One thing drew Cotta into the mountains-the only inscription he had not yet discovered. He would find it on a banner buried in the silvery luster of Trachila or on the boulder-strewn flanks of the new mountain. He was sure it would be a small banner-after all, it carrie
I very much enjoyed Christoph Ransmayr's novel" The Last World: A novel with an Ovidian Repeatory." The language alone is just so spot-on beautiful -- and the story itself is simple, but with so many layers, built on the theme of transformation. It's a lovely work.

The story centers on Cotta, who travels to the Black Sea on the hunt for Ovid (called Naso here) after he was banished from Rome for insulting the emperor. Cotta is hoping to find a copy of "Metamorphoses," believing Ovid b
Holly Troup
Aug 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Ovid has been banished from Rome. Rome during Augustus' reign, with its pompous displays, useless luxuries, and endless public rituals, has no room for a skeptic, a subtle, polished poet. Ovid has become one of the
" untrustworthy" and has been removed to Tomi, a remote port on the Black Sea......

Many years later, rumors of Ovid's death reach Rome. An admirer of Ovid, a young man named Cotta, who is bored with his pointless , empty life, decides, on a whim and not realizing that he w
Vann Turner
Dec 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Not for the squeamish, not for children, The Last World by Christoph Ransmayer (translation by John Woods) is a Grimm fairy tale unrelenting in its horror. I could only read it in spurts, and it left me feeling sullied, in need of a shower and Listerine. It is a novel redolent of putrefaction and iridescent with flies on carrion.

In all its aspects it is an antidote to popular fiction and a testament to what imagination and language can achieve.

I give it five stars. It is a rant against persona
Jana Volkmann
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"The Last World" is a novel that combines a brilliant plot and a stunning style. I read it in my mother tongue and in the original language, i.e. in German, and I consider myself a lover and collector of words - but here, I have learned a lot of new expressions, and I marvelled at Ransmayr's poetic tone which in my opinion comes out best in the most cruel scenes of the novel. I like the way it reflects on writing, and it contains intertextuality at its very best. It's not an easy task to re-writ ...more
Jun 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 1001
I'm not sure how to describe this story, other than to say it is a modern take on Ovid's exile from Rome, as discovered by Cotta, a follower of Ovid's and one dedicated to finding him. This takes him to Tomi, the town of iron, that is emerging from two year's of winter.

The book is sumptuous, beautiful in imagery and prose. I felt myself sinking into the story, into this strange and bizarre world where characters from Greek and Roman mythology populate a tiny, dying town of exiles. There are so
Oct 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
‘The Last World’ is a strange and compelling novel, set in a densely realised hinterworld: a weird mash-up of Ancient Rome and the pre-War modern world. Its descriptions possess the sense of haunting, disengaged reality found in dreams. The organizing principle is Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’, and everything seems to be in a state of flux, and yet oddly static. It isn’t a likeable book, or a page-turner – it seems specifically designed to stop you in your tracks – but it’s quite beautiful in its way. ...more
Dec 14, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not my cup of tea. After 20 pages I knew: this book has the same effect on me as Death of Vergil by Marc Broch, or the Wedding of Cadmos and Harmonia by Roberto Calasso; too effusive, too elaborate, and unreally strange. It's not only the exotic mythology (after all it's about Ovid and his book about transformations), but more the consciously anachronistic method of writing (films are projected in ancient Greek cities; microphones are used in gladiator-arenas; Germans are stranded in some far aw ...more
Dec 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Non-spoiler version: Cotta goes to Tomis after he hears a rumor that Ovid is dead. It's an interesting thought and Cotta adventure in Tomis is rather remarkable.

Spoiler version:

Cotta goes to Tomis and encounters the Metamorphoses. Virtually all the characters are named for characters from the Metamorphoses in some way, or recall Meta. characters. It's a really inventive and fun imagining of Tomis and Cotta's visit to the Black Sea
P.D.R. Lindsay
Apr 01, 2013 rated it liked it
I found this a strange book. Very 80s in concept, I think. Literary and obviously a writer with mana as he was able to write this novel with funding from reputable institutes.

The concept of rewriting Ovid's life and th ewya it was done with th elinks to the actual work of the poet was fascinating but I'm not sure it worked for me! I found it a little self consciously writerly in places!

Worth a read to fill out your knowledge of the poet. And a well written book to enjoy w
Nov 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
A difficult book to put down and a difficult one to pin down. The suspension of disbelief doesn't quite hold for its entire length. Although its not long, it feels less like a novel and more like a Surrealist movie - full of striking images and two hours would probably be enough. A young man goes looking for the banished Roman poet Publius Ovidius Naso at a mining town at the end of the earth. Old worlds and new collide - characters from Ovid's Metamorphoses appear in modern approximations of th ...more
Paul Blaney
May 29, 2014 rated it liked it
I really thought I'd like this better as a former Classicist and lover of Ovid's work. Perhaps something was lost in translation from the original German? There were shades of Kafka and moments of Magic Realism. Some fine language, admirable sentiments, original metaphors, but on the whole the book felt disjointed and rambling to me. Less than the sum of its parts. Sad to say, I had trouble finishing a novel that seemed like it should be right up my street.
Aug 14, 2007 rated it liked it
Ovid I

A few years ago I picked this up randomly in a bookstore and immediately bought it. The novel is set around the Roman poet Ovid's exile to Tomis on the Black Sea in the opening years of the common era. I had long thought that this would make for a great novel - the urbane, cosmopolitan poet banished by the autocratic emperor to the very edge of the civilized world.

The book was beautifully crafted but something was missing.
Dec 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Amazing literary work! Two things really stood out. First, the timelessness of the setting--past, present, and future all in one--the first chapter is a good example of this. Second, stories within stories within stories--Echo's retelling of Ovid's stories to the narrator--"the book of stones"--was a very beautiful passage. I could not put this book down and read it through the night!
James Cook
Jun 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the greatest contemporary novels I've read. Ransmayr creates a timeless world that is at once Ovid's ancient, elemental world and our own world, with its steam tankers and movie projectors. He creates a haunting atmosphere with prose that is gorgeous and poetic, but which doesn't sacrifice the narrative thrust either. Lovely. I highly recommend this book.
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
A man goes searching for the banished Roman poet Ovid and on his way he finds clues in the form of mythological characters and people who lived in Ovid’s time.

and that’s basically it.

I got bored reading this one and managed to finish it due to a five hour wait at Charles de Gaulle airport.
Jan Cölle
Sep 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Seems to be love it or hate it. I definitely loved, extremely powerful and captivating writing (in German, cannot comment on the translation).
Nov 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
As a Latin major I just loved this post modern novel,mixing mythology and time.also the poor exile in a post industrial , communist or Roman Imperial world for crime who of which he is never told
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i liked the epileptic guy who got really obsessed with an episcope and then turned to stone
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Born in Wels, Upper Austria, Ransmayr grew up in Roitham near Gmunden and the Traunsee. From 1972 to 1978 he studied philosophy and ethnology in Vienna. He worked there as cultural editor for the newspaper Extrablatt from 1978 to 1982, also publishing articles and essays in GEO, TransAtlantik and Merian. After his novel Die letzte Welt was published in 1988 he did extensive traveling in Ireland, Asia, North and South America. In 1 ...more
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