Colonial Empires of the East and the Eest: Images of the Other, from Tacito to David Malouf, from Salman Rushdie to Michael Ondaatje

Elvira Gòdono


Many centuries before Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1902) and Rudyard Kipling’s Kim (1901) were published, the East and West were still divided, as in Tacito’s De Germania, by a limes also visible in David Malouf’s An Imaginary Life (1978), in which the poet Ovid exiled at Tomi, is friends with the savage Child, of animal nature in a human body, similar to the metamorphic migrants of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses (1988), which hides the magnificent and ancient East of Mahābhārata and Rāmāyana in many Western identities, lost in diabolic European cities. This chaotic antithesis in Michael Ondaatje’s pages lets Sri Lanka’s childish ghosts float amidst stories of peregrination and in search of a Promised Land.

In the Skin of a Lion (1987) includes an epigraph from the ancient poem of Gilgamesh, an Eastern echo in a novel profoundly important for many Western studies that often focus on the theory of the canon or on postmodern literature. These categories are discussed with the prospect of broadening cultural and post-colonial studies, in order to merge theory of genres and thematic criticism with anthropology, mythology, and ethnology.

Multiple citations expand the original object of research, adding the colonial prophecy present in North American myths, as demonstrated by Margaret Atwood, Margaret Laurence or Lévi-Strauss. Incessantly moving from one space to another, authors give voice to the native cry from multiple perspectives, narrating – like all colonial empires founded on human cruelty– the beast’s nature that has shown its worst aspect.


City; Rushdie; Ondaatje; Malouf; Atwood

Full Text:

PDF (Italiano)



Achebe, Chinua, Home and Exile, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2000 (Edinburgh, Canongate, 2003).

Arnaldi, Francesco, Tacito, Napoli, Memoria dell’Accademia di Archeologia, Lettere e Belle Arti di Napoli, Voll. VI, 1973.

Atwood, Margaret, The Animals in That Country (1968), Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1973.

Atwood, Margaret, The Edible Woman, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1969 (London, Virago Press, 1980).

Boehmer, Elleke, Colonial and Postcolonial Literature, Oxford and New York, Oxford University Press, 1995.

Bruce, James, The Ancient Roman Empire and the British Empire in India: The diffusion of Roman and the English Law throughout the world (1901), London, Hesperides Press, 2006.

Canfora, Luciano, La Germania di Tacito da Engels al nazismo, Napoli, Liguori, 1979.

Carey, Peter, Oscar and Lucinda, London, Faber & Faber, 1988.

Càssola, Filippo, "Il nome, il mito e il concetto di Europa nell’antichità", Essere e divenire del classico, Ed. Ugo Cardinale, Atti del Convegno Internazionale Torino-Ivrea (21-23 Ottobre 2003), Torino, UTET, 2006: 14-20.

Comba, Enrico (ed.), Riti e misteri degli Indiani d’America (2001), Torino, UTET, 2003.

Conte, Gian Biagio, "Identità storica e confronto culturale. Dieci punti sulla tradizione umanistica europea", Essere e divenire del classico, Ed. Ugo Cardinale, Torino, UTET, 2006: 28-37.

Cromer, Lord E. B., Ancient and modern imperialism, London, Murray, 1910 (Boston, Adamant Media Corporation, 2001).

Curry, Michael R., "The Architectonic Impulse and the Reconceptualization of the Concrete in Contemporary Geography", Writing Worlds, Eds. T. J. Barnes - J. S. Duncan, London and New York, Routledge, 1992: 97-117.

Desideri Paolo, "La romanizzazione dell’Impero", Storia di Roma, vol. II, par. 2, Torino, Einaudi, 1991: 577-626.

Guillén, Claudio, Entre lo uno y lo diverso. Introducción a la literatura comparada, Barcelona, Editorial Crítica, 1985, trad. it. A. Gargano, L’uno e il molteplice. Introduzione alla letteratura comparata, Bologna, il Mulino, 1992.

Koch, Ludovica (ed.), Beowulf, Torino, Einaudi, 2005.

Landow, George P., "Reactions to the Glass Church", Postcolonial Web, Rhode Island, Brown University, 1997.

Laurence, Margaret, The Stone Angel, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1964.

Laurence, Margaret, A Bird in the House, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1970 (Toronto, New Canadian Library, 1989).

Leer, Martin, "At the Edge: Geography and the Imagination in the Work of David Malouf", Australian Literary Studies, 13 (May 1985): 3-8.

Lévi-Strauss, Claude, Anthropologie structurale, Paris, Plon, 1958.

Malouf, David, Johnno, St. Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 1975 (London, Penguin, 1999).

Malouf, David, An Imaginary Life, London, Chatto & Windus, 1978 (London, Vintage, 1999).

Ondaatje, Michael, In the Skin of a Lion, London, Secker and Warburg, 1987 (London, Picador, 1988).

Ondaatje, Michael, The English Patient, London, Bloomsbury, 1992 (London, Macmillan, 1993).

Questa, Cesare, "Sallustio, Tacito e l’imperialismo romano", in Tacito,Annales, trad. it. di B. Ceva, Milano, Rizzoli, 1994.

Risari, Elisabetta, "Introduzione" a Tacito, , Germania, Milano, Mondadori, 2006.

Rushdie, Salman, The Satanic Verses, London, Vintage, 1988 (New York, Random House, 2008).

Scarpato, Ines, Crossing Borders. I romanzi di David Malouf, Tesi di Laurea, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, 2003.

Severino, Emanuele, "L’Identità europea", Essere e divenire del classico, Ed. Ugo Cardinale, Torino, UTET, 2006: 3-13.

Stefanoni, Mario, "Introduzione" a Tacito, Agricola, Germania e Dialogo sull’oratoria, note di M. Stefanoni, con un saggio di M. Pani, Milano, Garzanti, 1991.

Syme, Ronald, "The Senator as an Historian", Entretiens Hardt, Géneve, Vandoeuvres, 1956 (Cambridge, Keffer, 1958, vol. IV: 185-190).

Tacito, De origine et situ Germanorum liber, Ed. Alf Önnerfors, Stutgardiae, in aedibus B. G. Teubneri, 1983.

Tahbildar, Barnali, Glass and Water: Progress, Power, and the Weakness of Empire in «Oscar and Lucinda» and «Waterland», Rhode Island, Brown University, 1997.

Young, Zane, Themes in David Malouf’s «An Imaginary Life», Rhode Island, Brown University, 1997.

White, Patrick, Flaws in the Glass, London, Cape, 1981.



Article Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM

Between Journal is published by the University of Cagliari - Maintenance for this OJS installation is provided by UniCA  Open Journals, hosted by Sistema Bibliotecario di Ateneo.

Between Journal was founded in 2011 with the financial contribution of Fondazione Banco di Sardegna (year 2010-2011).

ISSN 2039-6597

CC-By lockssDOAJ seal SPARC Europe