‘It is terribly comparable’: Margaret Atwood on ‘The Testaments’ and the state of the US

Folks usually examine life in America immediately to the totalitarian dystopia of the 1985 novel “The Handmaid’s Story”.

Writer Margaret atwood does not fairly agree, however says the parallels between her theocratic and supremacist white republic of Gilead and the US are “terribly comparable.” She wrote the ebook to reply the query, “If the US had totalitarianism, what sort of totalitarianism may or not it’s?”

Past promoting 8 million copies and provoking variations of a graphic novel to an opera, the novel grew into an Emmy Award-winning tv sequence that spawned the purple cape costume of selection for protesters in ‘Halloween and abortion rights.

Atwood’s follow-up, “The Testaments,” got here out final yr and was a bestseller in addition to the co-winner of the Booker Prize. It is obtainable in paperback this week.

In Gilead, the place the 2 novels happen, feminine fertility was lowered by environmental components. Many ladies are relegated to the roles of elite baby producers – however Atwood notes that the ladies of Gilead select their fates.

“You might be an elite rancher or you may go to work within the colonies and clear up poisonous waste. Your selection, ”she stated. “Nobody is forcing you to do that. You will have the selection. “

“The Testaments” by Margaret Atwood. (Courtesy)

“The Testaments” is about 16 years into the longer term to discover the inevitable destiny of corrupt totalitarian regimes, she stated. In comparison with the present timeline of “The Handmaid’s Story” on Hulu, the occasions of “The Testaments” happen far into the longer term.

In his follow-up, Atwood needed to inform a narrative about three totally different ladies: one who grew up in Gilead, one who had a drastically totally different upbringing elsewhere, and Aunt Lydia, who readers first met by means of the narrator’s flashbacks in “The Handmaid’s Story”.

“[Gilead’s] The aim is to carry onto the facility in order that they are going to do nearly something, however they’ve come below the slogan to be higher, to provide individuals a greater life, to be pure, to be higher. , all of these sorts of issues, ”she stated. “When it begins to crumble, the seams begin to give means. In order that’s the place we’re in “The Testaments”. Issues are beginning to crumble.

As the US continues to grapple with a pandemic and protests in opposition to police brutality amongst numerous different points, Atwood reminds individuals to be careful for the primary warning indicators of the “totalitarian handbook.”

“I feel it’s important to ask your self and anybody else who runs for workplace, what sort of nation would you like us to dwell in?” she says. “If you wish to keep away from residing in totalitarianism, it’s important to maintain an unbiased judiciary. We should maintain an unbiased media. And it’s important to keep away from a police state.

Interview highlights

On the affect of her life in East Germany with the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Empire nonetheless in place when she wrote the novel

“Yeah, it undoubtedly helped the environment. So each Sunday the East German Air Drive would booms simply to remind us that they had been there. And I, at the moment, visited East Germany. I visited Czechoslovakia, which was nonetheless a part of the Soviet Empire, and I visited Poland. So I am interested by how this stuff begin, in fact, as a result of I am sufficiently old to have lived by means of WWII. So we had [Benito] Mussolini, we had [Adolf] Hitler, we had [Joseph] Stalin and shortly after we had [Mao Zedong] and we have had fairly a number of since then. We had Pol Pot, we had the Argentinian generals who’ve [Augusto Pinochet]. So how did this stuff begin and the way did they finish? So in “The Handmaid’s Story” we see them at first. And in “The Testaments” 16 years have handed and we’re beginning to see the collapse as a result of fairly often these regimes get corrupted. Nicely, why did I say fairly often? At all times, they turn into corrupt for his or her goal, regardless that they could have been idealistic to start with.

On Aunt Lydia, who labored with the lads in energy to coach different ladies to be herders

“So individuals from oppressed teams who get some restricted energy inside a system have all the time me. So that you get a bit of extra energy than the opposite individuals in your oppressed group, however you’ll by no means be a frontrunner. So why are they taking these positions? As a result of there’s by no means a scarcity of candidates. In order that’s one of many questions I have a look at within the ebook: Why do individuals collaborate? “

On aunts, who assist subjugate ladies to turn into breeders, and the way badly this group treats different ladies

“That is the management group. Once I first printed somebody stated, “Nicely, I like this ebook. It was like my daughters’ non-public faculty. Nicely, possibly not fairly. I feel the skirts are longer in my ebook.

“Oh, that by no means occurs in actual life, does it?” Oh sure. I’m a giant fan of “Imply Ladies”. Both means, it is a comedy and “The Handmaid’s Story” is not. However ladies who’re aunts suppose they’re doing it in your good. And typically individuals actually do one thing in your good that you just discover disagreeable. We due to this fact depart it to the reader to resolve. And all of it relies on the choices obtainable. So wherever we could also be in life, our decisions are all the time restricted. I will by no means do it, I will share this with you, Robin. I’ll by no means be a ballet dancer. Sure I do know. You might be no matter you need. Nicely, I am sorry, however at 80 I feel that path is reduce off from me.

On whether or not the concept ladies can do no matter they need is good

“There’s all the time a sugar coated fairy story, and sugar coated fairy tales normally have one thing to them. And so what we’re advised in “The Handmaid’s Story” is that nobody will ever assault you on the street. That’s true. It is fairly locked down. It’s totally organized. It’s totally structured. So nasty surprises, for instance, you’ll by no means exit and find yourself in a bar and ask somebody to place a glass of rape in your drink as a result of you aren’t going to be in a bar interval, interval . This manner you can be very secure inside the limits. In addition they get married very early to be sure you are actually secure. “


Emiko tamagawa produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Peter O’Dowd. Allison Hagan tailored it for the net.


E book excerpt: ‘The Testaments’

CHAPTER ONE

Ardua Corridor Holographic

Solely deceased persons are allowed to have statues, however I acquired one throughout my lifetime. Already I’m petrified.

This statue was a small token of appreciation for my many contributions, stated the quote, which was learn by Aunt Vidala. She had been given the duty by our superiors and was removed from grateful. I thanked her with as a lot modesty as I may invoke, then pulled the twine that launched the sheet of cloth that enveloped me; it was swelling to the bottom, and I used to be standing there. We’re not celebrating right here at Ardua Corridor, however there was quiet applause. I nodded, nodding my head.

My statue is bigger than life, as statues are usually, and exhibits me youthful, slimmer and in higher form than I’ve been in fairly a while. I stand straight, shoulders again, lips curved right into a agency however benevolent smile. My eyes are mounted on a cosmic level of reference understood to symbolize my idealism, my unwavering dedication to obligation, my dedication to maneuver ahead regardless of all obstacles. Not that something within the sky can be seen to my statue, positioned as is in a moody cluster of bushes and shrubs subsequent to the trail that runs previous Ardua Corridor. We aunts should not be too cocky, even within the stone.

Squeezing my left hand, a seven or eight yr previous lady appears at me confidently. My proper hand rests on the pinnacle of a lady crouching by my facet, hair veiled, eyes raised in an expression that could possibly be learn as cowardly or grateful – certainly one of our maids – and behind me is certainly one of my Pearl Ladies. , able to undertake her missionary work. My Taser is hanging from a belt round my waist. This weapon jogs my memory of my failures: if I had been extra environment friendly, I’d not have wanted such a software. The persuasion in my voice would have been sufficient.

As a gaggle of statuary, it’s not a fantastic success: too many individuals. I’d have most well-liked to place extra emphasis on myself. However no less than I look sane. It may effectively have been in any other case, for the previous sculptress – a real believer since deceased – tended to provide her topics bulging eyes as an indication of their pious fervor. Her Aunt Helena bust appears enraged, Aunt Vidala’s bust is hyperthyroid, and Aunt Elizabeth’s bust appears set to blow up.

Throughout the unveiling, the sculptor was nervous. Was his interpretation of me flattering sufficient? Have I permitted it? Would I be seen to approve? I performed with the thought of ​​frowning when the sheet got here off, however I believed higher: I am not with out compassion. “Very reasonable,” I say.

It was 9 years in the past. Since then, my statue has aged: pigeons have adorned me, moss has grown in my moist crevices. Voters have gotten into the behavior of leaving choices at my toes: eggs for fertility, oranges to counsel full being pregnant, crescents to seek advice from the moon. I ignore the bread – usually it rained – however pocket the oranges. Oranges are so refreshing.

I write these phrases in my non-public sanctuary inside Ardua Corridor Library – one of many few remaining libraries after the enthusiastic ebook burns which have taken place throughout our nation. The corrupted and bloodstained fingerprints of the previous should be erased to create a clear area for the morally pure era that’s absolutely about to reach. That is the idea.

However amongst these bloody fingerprints, there are those that we made on our personal, and these can’t be erased so simply. Over time, I’ve buried numerous bones; now I’m inclined to dig them up once more – if solely in your edification, my unknown reader. In case you learn this manuscript will no less than have survived. Perhaps I am fantasizing: possibly I will by no means have a reader. Perhaps I will solely converse to the wall, in a couple of means.

That is sufficient registration for immediately. My hand hurts, my again hurts and my night cup of scorching milk is ready for me. I’ll put this screed in its hiding place, avoiding the surveillance cameras – I do know the place they’re, having positioned them myself. Regardless of these precautions, I’m conscious of the danger I run: writing might be harmful. What betrayals, then what denunciations may await me? There are a number of inside Ardua Corridor who want to get their arms on these pages.

Wait, I counsel them silently: it’ll worsen.


Extract from Wills by Margaret Atwood copyright 2019 by OW Toad, Ltd. Posted by Nan A. Talese / Doubleday, a division of Penguin Random Home. All rights reserved.

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