Myths are universal and timeless stories that reflect and shape our livesthey explore our desires, our fears, our longings, and provide narratives that remind us what it means to be human. The Myths series brings together some of the worlds finest writers, each of whom has retold a myth in a contemporary and memorable way. Authors in the series include: Chinua Achebe, Margaret Atwood, Karen Armstrong, A.S. Byatt, David Grossman, Milton Hatoum, Victor Pelevin, Donna Tartt, Su Tong and Jeanette Winterson.
Now that all the others have run out of air, its my turn to do a little story-making.
In Homers account in The Odyssey, Penelopewife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troyis portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife, her story a salutary lesson through the ages. Left alone for twenty years when Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan war after the abduction of Helen, Penelope manages, in the face of scandalous rumours, to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca, bring up her wayward son, and keep over a hundred suitors at bay, simultaneously. When Odysseus finally comes home after enduring hardships, overcoming monsters and sleeping with goddesses, he kills her suitors andcuriouslytwelve of her maids.
In a splendid contemporary twist to the ancient story, Margaret Atwood has chosen to give the telling of it to Penelope and to her twelve hanged maids, asking: What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to? In Atwoods dazzling, playful retelling, the story becomes as wise and compassionate as it is haunting, and as wildly entertaining as it is disturbing. With wit and verve, drawing on the storytelling and poetic talent for which she herself is renowned, she gives Penelope new life and reality and sets out to provide an answer to an ancient mystery.