the short story project

Like Penelope

Olga Sonkin On:

Like Penelope by Lyudmila Petrushevskaya

Like Penelope was first published in 2008 as part of a short story collection that was published in celebration of Lyudmila Petrushevskaya’s 70th birthday. Petrushevskaya, who is one of the most well-known and widely read writers in Russia today, is known as a ruthless writer who has a tendency to focus on the grotesque side of life; misery, neglect and annihilation are examined under a cruel and uncompromising looking glass. However, in Like Penelope something different happens: Like Penelope is a sort of miracle in Petrushevskaya’s writing, a literary miracle. The story takes place as Christmas (Novi God) approaches and culminates in a very Western Christmas miracle. At first glance, there could be nothing more alien to Petrushevskaya than this sugary Western tradition that has been commercialized ad nauseam. But still, a miracle takes place here as Petrushevskaya writes about compassion, humanity and, god forbid, romantic love. Through the sharp observation of reality, realistic handling of her characters and a compassion that stems from some sort of deep source, she tells an alternative tale of a Christmas miracle.