(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

For reasons which even Ovid seems not to know clearly, the poet, at the height of his career, is exiled from Rome to a small village in the wilds near the Black Sea. Although he is able to continue writing and to correspond with friends and relatives in Rome, he is faced with the possibility of spending the rest of his life in this primitive backwater where the natives, obviously ordered to take care of him, do not even speak Latin, and whose lives are spent working barely to survive. Eight months out of the year, the land is cold, and the village is threatened by packs of wolves or marauding barbarians. Ovid, unhappy and unused to taking care of himself, is a burden to the village. He is housed with the headman, Ryzak, and the headman’s family.

Slowly, reluctantly, Ovid shakes himself out of his self-pity, busies himself with his writing, and starts to take an interest in the community, to learn the language, and to help in the communal chores. He also makes some attempt to civilize his surroundings by growing a few flowers and by trying to teach the grandson of the headman’s family to speak Latin. He puts his life into some perspective, recognizing the appropriateness, in a sense, of his return to the country, for he was born in a rural part of Italy. He is less unhappy, realizing that these people, if ignorant and unimaginative, are not unkind. Ryzak, the old headman, becomes a close friend.

On the annual deer-hunting expedition, Ovid...

(The entire section is 425 words.)