the short story project

Like Penelope

Olga Sonkin On:

Like Penelope by Lyudmila Petrushevskaya

“Like Penelope” by Lyudmila Petrushevskaya was published in 2008 in the collection Wild Animal Tales, a compilation of short stories (or flash fiction—some just a single paragraph) with a common theme: their protagonists are all anthropomorphic animals that lead the lives of humans. This is not the first time Petrushevskaya has written about the character of Penelope, Odysseus’s faithful wife (in fact, she wrote a story by the very same name but completely different in length and content, which is available here). In this story, she revisits the defining myth of “the hero’s wife,” and refutes the myth with a few swift and deadly strokes of a pen: “Odysseus” is Stasik the mosquito, a junkie and woman chaser (or more accurately, pig chaser), while “Penelope”—his mosquito wife Tomka, isn’t waiting for his return at all; she’s very busy with plucking the forest animals’ facial hair, seeing that she’s a beautician. What do you have to say about that, Homer?