We'd like to understand how you use our websites in order to improve them. Register your interest. The article analyses the novel of the austrian postmodern writer Christoph Ransmayr Die letzte Welt , in order to illustrate that the text emphasizes the essence of a literary character in general. According to the latest definition of F. Jannidis, a literary character is defined by the possession of the certain inner and outer properties, which allow to distinguish it from the other elements of the fictive world. What Ransmayr presents in his novel, is the direct opposite of this definition.
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German Literature. Search this site. Navigation Home. Guide Books. Parallel Texts. Hall of Fame. Early Modern. Web Links. Once again, Ransmayr has his protagonist take up the detective work of finding traces, but this time, there can be no securing them, since the principle of metamorphosis underlies the novel. The appeal of Die letzte Welt is found in its tantalising transformations of form and character, as well as its striking images and its return to myth.
With these familiar tales of nature and human nature, Ransmayr tells us stories which speak to us on a fundamental level. For instance, Thies, a German war veteran, has a recurring nightmare about a mass of bodies trapped in a gas chamber. Thus, the Last World is a realm beyond either the real or purely fictional. Here, Ransmayr calls Ovid Naso, referring not only to his full title Publius Ovidius Naso, but also making a joke about his large nose.
The man as citizen cannot assert himself against the authorities, but as creator, he can ensure the survival of his work, paradoxically, by destroying it in its present form. Once again, Ransmayr experiments with narrative as an act, a gesture of inscription which can both make and obliterate something. Cotta travels to Tomi, the eiserne Stadt the town of iron , in search of Naso. He does not find the author in any immediate sense, but he does discover variously transformed versions of his last work though his encounters with the citizens of Tomi who remember their encounters with Naso and his stories.
In Die letzte Welt , Ransmayr focuses on the work itself, showing how the original reflections on nature and human nature can never be completely erased, but, in order to preserve them over millennia, their form must change.
As we might expect, this idea is not restricted to the work itself, rather it extends to, and in fact implicates, the world of narrative a world which, if it describes nature and human nature, must include these things.
Thus, the re-workings of the transformations described by Ransmayr are experienced by Cotta as effects in and on the narrative world. By having the topography and its history change with each transformation, Cotta sees himself cast and recast in each of these gestures. By describing a series of transformations of nature, the text manipulates the natural world, but without the author, who remains missing, the power of the work diminishes, and the world over which it temporarily exerted narrative control also disappears.
Christoph Ransmayr, The Last World , trans. Woods New York: Grove Press, David L.
Set in an inconsistent time period, it tells the story of a man, Cotta, who travels to Tomi to search for the poet Naso , who had settled there in political exile, after hearing rumours that Naso has died. In the town, Cotta encounters a number of characters from Ovid's Metamorphoses. Kirkus Reviews called the book an "ambitious, stylish historical work". Irwin first compared it to the works of surrealist painters, after which he wrote: "But the shape-shifting world in which Cotta conducts his quest owes more to Latin literature than to Surrealist theory. The Last World , with its careful anachronisms and deformations, is a brilliant exercise in alternative literary history.