Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, February 3, 2012

"Philomela" by Emma Tennant

"Philomela" by Emma Tennant (1975, 15 pages)

"Philomela" by Emma Tennant (1937, UK) is based on the ancient Greek myth of Philomela, a princess of Athens who was raped and had her tongue torn out by her brother-in-law.  

Tennant comes from a well connected and distinguished family.   Her father was a baron.  She began her writing career as a travel writer for Queen Magazine and was the editor of the British edition of Vogue.   She has published novels that are sequels to Pride and Prejudice as well as Jane Eyre.   She also wrote a novel based on her affair with Ted Hughes, Burnt Desires.   (There is more information about her life and work here.)

"Philomela" is set in ancient Athens and is told in the first person by a woman of Nobel rank who was given in marriage for the sake of political alliances.    She sees herself more or less as a glorified slave when she talks to her beloved sister  Philomela about whether or not she should accept her future role as a wife of a war loving political leader.   They agree that the sister has no choice but to accept the marriage.   As she travels to her new home she and Philomela make plans for Philomela to join them.   The rest of the story is pretty much a retelling of the myth.   

I enjoyed this story a lot, especially the ending where the sister of Philomela takes terrible revenge on her husband for his rape and mutilation of her sister.

I read this story in The Penquin Book of Modern British Short Stories edited by Malcolm Bradbury.   The story originally appeared in Banana, a literary magazine edited by Tennant, in 1975.   

Mel u

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