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The Penelopiad

Canongate Myth: Book 2

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood returns with a shrewd, funny, and insightful retelling of the myth of Odysseus from the point of view of Penelope. Describing her own remarkable vision, the author writes in the foreword, "I've chosen to give the telling of the story to Penelope and to the twelve hanged maids. The maids form a chanting and singing Chorus, which focuses on two questions that must pose themselves after any close reading of the Odyssey: What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to? The story as told in the Odyssey doesn't hold water: there are too many inconsistencies. I've always been haunted by the hanged maids and, in The Penelopiad, so is Penelope herself." One of the high points of literary fiction in 2005, this critically acclaimed story found a vast audience and is finally available in paperback.

Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles

Canongate Myth: Book 3

Jeanette Winterson

Condemned to shoulder the world forever by the gods he dared defy, freedom seems unattainable to Atlas. But then, he receives an unexpected visit from Heracles, the one man strong enough to share the burden. This work addresses difficult questions about the nature of choice and coercion in the myth of Atlas and Heracles.

The Helmet of Horror

Canongate Myth: Book 4

Victor Pelevin

Victor Pelevin, the iconoclastic and wildly interesting contemporary Russian novelist who The New Yorker named one of the Best European Writers Under 35, upends any conventional notions of what mythology must be with his unique take on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. By creating a mesmerizing world where the surreal and the hyperreal collide, The Helmet of Horror is a radical retelling of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur set in an Internet chat room. They have never met, they have been assigned strange pseudonyms, they inhabit identical rooms that open out onto very different landscapes, and they have entered a dialogue they cannot escape — a discourse defined and destroyed by the Helmet of Horror. Its wearer is the dominant force they call Asterisk, a force for good and ill in which the Minotaur is forever present and Theseus is the great unknown.

The Helmet of Horror is structured according to the way we communicate in the twenty-first century — using the Internet — yet instilled with the figures and narratives of classical mythology. It is a labyrinthine examination of epistemological uncertainty that radically reinvents this myth for an age where information is abundant but knowledge ultimately unattainable.

Dream Angus: The Celtic God of Dreams

Canongate Myth: Book 6

Alexander McCall Smith

The latest addition to the Myths series from Canongate, now available in paperback, is a beguiling tale from the beloved author of the best-selling No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Angus is one of the earliest Celtic deities and one of the most cherished to this day. Like an even more handsome combination of Apollo and Eros, he is the god of love, youth, and beauty. Just the sight of him has made people fall in love, and he has the power to reveal a person's true love in a dream, if asked politely.

Alexander McCall Smith has turned his renowned storytelling talents to crafting irresistible stories from this ancient myth. Five exquisite contemporary fables of love lost and found unfold alongside Angus's search for the beautiful Caer, the swan maiden he met in his dreams. McCall Smith unites reality and dreams, today and the ancient past, mesmerizingly, leaving the reader to wonder: what is life but the pursuit of dreams?

Girl Meets Boy: The Myth of Iphis

Canongate Myth: Book 8

Ali Smith

From the astonishingly talented writer of The Accidental and Hotel World comes Ali Smith's brilliant retelling of Ovid's gender-bending myth of Iphis and Ianthe, as seen through the eyes of two Scottish sisters. Girl Meets Boy is about girls and boys, girls and girls, love and transformation, and the absurdity of consumerism, as well as a story of reversals and revelations that is as sharply witty as it is lyrical. Funny, fresh, poetic, and political, Girl Meets Boy is a myth of metamorphosis for a world made in Madison Avenue's image, and the funniest addition to the Myths series from Canongate since Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad.

Baba Yaga Laid an Egg

Canongate Myth: Book 11

Dubravka Ugresic

According to Slavic myth, Baba Yaga is a witch who lives in a house built on chicken legs and kidnaps small children. In Baba Yaga Laid an Egg, internationally acclaimed writer Dubravka Ugresic takes the timeless legend and spins it into a fresh and distinctly modern tale of femininity, aging, identity, and love.

With barbed wisdom and razor-sharp wit, Ugresic weaves together the stories of four women in contemporary Eastern Europe: a writer who grants her dying mother's final wish by traveling to her hometown in Bulgaria, an elderly woman who wakes up every day hoping to die, a buxom blonde hospital worker who's given up on love, and a serial widow who harbors a secret talent for writing. Through the women's fears and desires, and their struggles against invisibility, Ugresic presents a brilliantly postmodern retelling of an ancient myth that is infused with humanity and the joy of storytelling.

The Fire Gospel

Canongate Myth: Book 12

Michel Faber

Theo Griepenkerl, a Canadian linguistics scholar, is sent to Iraq in search of artifacts that have survived the destruction and looting of the war. While visiting a museum in Mosul, he finds nine papyrus scrolls tucked in the belly of a bas-relief sculpture: they have been perfectly preserved for more than two thousand years. After smuggling them out of Iraq and translating them from Aramaic, Theo realizes the extent of his career-making find, for he is in possession of the Fifth Gospel, and it offers a shocking and incomparable eyewitness account of Christ's crucifixion and last days on Earth. Nakedly ambitious and recently dumped by his girlfriend, Theo sets out to share his discovery with the world in the form of a headline-grabbing U.S. book tour. Caught in the throes of his newfound fame, Theo fails to consider the global and cultural ramifications his discovery will have with God-fearing folks and religious zealots worldwide. Like Prometheus's gift of fire, Theo's book has incendiary consequences.

The Hurricane Party

Canongate Myth: Book 15

Klas Ostergren

Hanck Orn's son is dead. When they come to the door they tell him it was a heart attack, but he knows they are lying. So he travels to the archipelago at the outermost reaches of the land to find out what really happened. He lands on an island and is met by a young woman, hair streaked with blood, raving like a lunatic. She is one of the sisters, who tell him the story of how his son died in the great hall of the Clan, the Norse gods, who were holding a party. But the festivities soon got out of hand, the guests began to argue with one another, and the mischievous shapeshifter Loki dealt a deadly blow. Set in a dystopian future that recalls Orwell and Zamyatin, Klas Östergren has weaved a dizzying story of magnificent scope and foul play. Moving from the golden halls to the depths of the underworld, it is about one man's search for justice for his son in a world on the brink.

Ragnarok : The End of the Gods

Canongate Myth: Book 17

A. S. Byatt

Recently evacuated to the British countryside and with World War Two raging around her, one young girl is struggling to make sense of her life. Then she is given a book of ancient Norse legends and her inner and outer worlds are transformed. Intensely autobigraphical and linguistically stunning, this book is a landmark work of fiction from one of Britain's truly great writers. Intensely timely it is a book about how stories can give us the courage to face our own demise. The Ragnarok myth, otherwise known as the Twilight of the Gods, plays out the endgame of Norse mythology. It is the myth in which the gods Odin, Freya and Thor die, the sun and moon are swallowed by the wolf Fenrir, the serpent Midgard eats his own tale as he crushes the world and the seas boil with poison. It is only after such monstrous death and destruction that the world can begin anew. This epic struggle provided the fitting climax to Wagner's Ring Cycle and just as Wagner was inspired by Norse myth so Byatt has taken this remarkable finale and used it as the underpinning of this highly personal and politically charged retelling.