The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus

by Margaret Atwood | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0739467565 Global Overview for this book
Registered by Simson-Shilitoe of Neewiller-près-Lauterbourg, Alsace France on 2/2/2011
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2 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by Simson-Shilitoe from Neewiller-près-Lauterbourg, Alsace France on Wednesday, February 02, 2011
The Penelopiad is a novella by Margaret Atwood. It was published in 2005 as part of the first set of books in the Canongate Myth Series where contemporary authors rewrite ancient myths. In The Penelopiad, Penelope reminisces on the events during the Odyssey, life in Hades, Odysseus, Helen, and her relationships with her parents. A chorus of the twelve maids, whom Odysseus believed were disloyal and whom Telemachus hanged, interrupt Penelope's narrative to express their view on events. The maids' interludes use a new genre each time, including a jump-rope rhyme, a lament, an idyll, a ballad, a lecture, a court trial and several types of songs.

The novella illustrates the differences perspectives can make. The stories are told in the Odyssey by Nestor and Menelaus to Telemachus, and Odysseus to a Scherian court make Odysseus into a hero as he fights monsters and seduces goddesses. According to Penelope in The Penelopiad Odysseus was a liar who drunkenly fought a one-eyed bartender then boasted it was a giant cannibalistic cyclops. Homer portrays Penelope as loyal, patient, and the ideal wife, as he contrasts her to Clytemnestra who killed Agamemnon upon his return from Troy.

In The Penelopiad, Penelope feels compelled to tell her story because she is unsatisfied with Homer's portrayal of her and the other myths about her sleeping with the suitors and giving birth to Pan. She rejects the role of the ideal wife and admits she was just trying to survive. The Odyssey makes the maids into traitors who consort with the suitors. From the maids' perspective, they were innocent victims, used by Penelope to spy, raped and abused by the suitors, and then murdered by Odysseus and Telemachus. Atwood shows the truth occupies a third position between the myths and the biased points of view.

Journal Entry 2 by Simson-Shilitoe at Rülzheim, Rheinland-Pfalz Germany on Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Released 10 yrs ago (2/2/2011 UTC) at Rülzheim, Rheinland-Pfalz Germany


Posting alongside with "Dream Angus: The Celtic God of Dreams" as a little birthday-surprise and wishlist-book to the Philippines and a bc-friend of my friendlist.

I hope that the books will arrive soon and just before 08.03. and will bring some smiles across the miles.

Happy reading "akosikulot"!

Journal Entry 3 by akosikulot at Panabo City, Davao del Norte Philippines on Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Without a doubt the earliest birthday present I ever got - thank you so much, Simson-Shilitoe! I have to confess, though - I opened it before my birthday! *slaps own wrist* When I got the package I was all excited so I decided to hide it in my closet until my birthday, then went to PM you a thank you. But then when I saw the two books on your recently registered shelf, and I flipped with joy (figuratively, of course). Everytime I opened my closet I felt the gravitational pull of the package until I couldn't stand it anymore. I opened it. And read it. Overnight. Please forgive me. :{

But seriously though - thank you so much! I wanna PC these two but decided I will share the Canongate Myths love by starting rings on all the books I get to read. :)

Journal Entry 4 by akosikulot at Panabo City, Davao del Norte Philippines on Tuesday, March 08, 2011
"Even an obvious fabrication is some comfort when you have few others." - Thoughts on The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

Ah, Margaret Atwood. I've only read two of your works - your quite obscure short story collection, Bluebeard's Egg, and this retelling of The Odyssey from Penelope's point of view - and still I know for certain I will love the rest. I have yet to read your award-winning books, but I will hold on to The Penelopiad and claim it as my favorite of yours (so far).

"Half-Dorothy Parker, half-Desperate Housewives," so says the blurb from The Independent (UK), and while I haven't read anything by Dorothy Parker and am no big fan of Desperate Housewives, I will go on a limb here and assume they must be really great, to be half-and-half of something as wonderful as this book.

Written in two alternating forms - in a narration and in varying styles of poetry, for isn't Atwood known for both? - The Penelopiad is the story of the loyal and cunning Penelope, Odysseus' wife, who really isn't all that popular or well-known in Greek literature as her husband (I didn't even know about her until I read the book, but then again I haven't read The Odyssey - such a shortcoming, I know). She is sassy, in a refined sort of way; she is hilarious, the kind that makes you want to guffaw but for some reason you try to stifle it all in a prolonged chuckle. Penelope is sarcastic and ironic and grave and serious, and she makes you laugh even though she's sad, and I am still in awe with how Atwood perfected such a voice. Penelope is a character that is such a character, if you know what I mean.

The story is told by Penelope herself (the narration) and by her twelve maids - the twelve maids who were hanged by Odysseus upon his return after years of absence - as a sort of Chorus that kept asking one question: why were they hanged? And here we find out that The Odyssey is plagued with intrigue; that upon closer inspection, it wasn't just about Odysseus and his adventures. That maybe, just maybe, Penelope wasn't the quintessential faithful wife history claims her to be. "What can a woman do when scandalous gossip travels the world? If she defends herself, she sounds guilty."

There so much duality in The Penelopiad: the styles of writing, the versions of each episode in the story, the characters themselves. Well, everything and everyone except Odysseus, I guess - known as a trickster, a great persuader, a liar and a con-man, which he all is, consistently, even to his own wife. And she to him, maybe, could be.

"The two of us were - by our own admission - proficient and shameless liars of long standing. It's a wonder either one of us believed a word the other said.

But we did.

Or so we told each other."

Ultimately, The Penelopiad makes you think of how the truth is obscured by the passing of time, and how nothing is ever reliable, not even one's self.

PS. In keeping with Atwood's everything-isn't-what-it's-said-to-be, Helen of Troy - who happens to be Penelope's cousin - is quite the little bitch.

Originally posted here.

Journal Entry 5 by akosikulot at Panabo City, Davao del Norte Philippines on Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Canongate Myths book ring: The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

The first of a series of Canongate Myths book rings I am hosting. Here's the forum post for this ring.

Paperback, 7.6 x 5.1 x 0.7 inches / 10.6 oz (300.5g)

The Book Ring list:

mafarrimond - UK (EU shipping)
abigailann - UK (UK shipping)
greenbadger - UK (international shipping)
LaPitchoune - Finland (international shipping)
Alannia - Malaysia (Asia/Aus/NZ/international shipping)

... and then back to me! :)

1. Make a quick journal entry when you receive the book.
2. Read and send on within four weeks - or make a journal entry to let us know how you're getting on if you need longer.
3. Make a journal entry when you've finished.
4. Use the cheapest method of shipping available.
5. Enjoy reading the book! :)

Please leave a postcard from your country as a sort of travel journal for the book ring!

Released 10 yrs ago (3/13/2011 UTC) at Given to the next BookCrosser on the list, Bookring -- Controlled Releases


This bookring is off to a start: on it's way to mafarrimond in the UK together with another Canongate Myth bookring!

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