NEW YORK (AP) — Margaret Atwood imagines apocalyptic disaster, a dystopian government and a writer pretending to be her own death. But until recently he had saved himself from the nightmare of trying to burn one of his books.
watch: Why Did Margaret Atwood See This As The Handmaid’s Tale Sequel Moment?
With a flamethrower, no less.
She failed, and that was it.
On Monday night, just in time for Penn America’s annual gala, Atwood and Penguin Random House announced that a one-time, non-burning version of “The Handmaid’s Tale” would be auctioned off through Sotheby’s New York. He kicked off the initiative with a short video that shows Atwood trying in vain to burn down his classic novel about a totalitarian patriarch, the Republic of Gilead. Proceeds will be donated to PEN, which advocates for free expression around the world.
“In a category of things you never expected, this is one of them,” she said in a telephone interview.
Markus Dohle, CEO of Penguin Random House, said in a statement, “It’s time to see what’s at stake in the fight against censorship in this innovative, irresistible edition of his classic novel about the persecutions of reincarnation.” But there is a reminder.”
Fireproof Tale Penn is a joint project between Atwood, Penguin Random House, and two companies based in Toronto, where Atwood has long been a resident: Rethink Creative Agency and The Gas Company Inc., a graphic arts and bookbinding specialty studio.
Rethink’s Robbie Percy said he and fellow creative director Carolyn Frisson came up with the idea. Late last year, they heard about a Texas lawmaker who had listed hundreds of works to be banned from school libraries: Percy and Frisson wondered whether it was possible to make a book safe from the harshest censorship. They soon agreed on “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which came out in the 1980s and over the years began with the political rise and unexpected presidency of Donald Trump and continued with the current surge of book bans.
“We thought that an indelible copy of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ could serve as a symbol,” he said.
Percy and Frisson spoke with Atwood publishers in Canada and the US – both divisions of Penguin Random House – and kept in touch with the author. He then contacted Gaslight, which has worked on several commissioned texts, including some for Penn.
The gas company’s principal owner, Doug Laxdal, told the AP that he and his colleagues used cinefoil, a specially treated aluminum product, instead of paper. The 384-page text, which can be read like a simple novel, took more than two months to complete. The gas company needed days just to print out the manuscript; The cinefoil sheets were so thin that some would have fallen through cracks in the printer and damaged beyond repair. The manuscript was sewn together by hand using nickel copper wire.
“The only way to destroy that book is with a shredder,” Lakshdal says. “Otherwise, it will last a very long time.”
Atwood told the AP that she was immediately interested in producing more videos in the special edition. She was a teenager in the 1950s, when Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” was published, and has vivid memories of the novel’s futuristic setting, in which the books are reduced to ashes.
As far as Atwood is aware, “The Handmaid’s Tale” has never been lit, but has often been banned or attempted to be banned. Atwood remembers a 2006 attempt at a Texas high school district, when the superintendent called her book “sexually explicit and offensive to Christians,” which ended when the students successfully fought back. In 2021, “The Handmaid’s Tale” was pulled by schools in Texas and Kansas.
The novel has sold millions of copies and its impact is not just through words, but through images, amplified by the award-winning Hulu adaptation starring Elizabeth Moss. Advocates for women’s rights around the world wear purist hats designed for her story. Recently, some women in slave organizations marched to protest the Supreme Court’s expected reversal this year of Roe v. Wade, a 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
“It’s an unforgettable visual metaphor,” Atwood said. “That’s why in the Middle Ages people put coats of arms on their armor, and had recognizable flags. That way you can visualize them and know who stood for what.”