Mark Haddon’s THE PORPOISE: A deep dive into the tale of Pericles

 

There’s a medieval trader who passes through the middle of Mark Haddon’s notable new book, “The Porpoise.” On the road, the trader hears tales of intrigue. One bit of hearsay involves a city ruled by two sisters, whose brother has gone missing.

That brother is in fact the trader himself: Pericles, the prince of Tyre, who has led a life of adventure devastated by the death in childbirth of his wife, and his estrangement from their daughter, Marina.

The story of Pericles makes up one of the odder sagas of Shakespeare’s oeuvre. It’s the basis for a play widely attributed to a collaboration between Shakespeare and the part-time playwright George Wilkins, an “innkeeper” and serial abuser who more than likely ran a brothel. Haddon, the author of the prize-winning 2003 novel “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” has spun a fantastical yarn using fibers from the Pericles legend, the Shakespeare-Wilkins association, and his own modern-day interpretation, involving an entitled widower and the daughter he smothers.

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