Details
MARGARET ATWOOD (b.1939)
The Handmaid's Tale. London: Jonathan Cape, 1986.
'Some saw the Handmaid's Tale as a blueprint': first UK edition of Atwood's most celebrated work, extensively annotated by the author across 161 pages, with 1,137 words of commentary. Atwood's feminist dystopian novel is set in a near-future New England in which a population crippled by environmental damage and radiation is ruled over by a military theocracy, creating a society in which women are stripped of almost all rights, most notably over their reproductive functions. It won the Governor General's Award in 1985 and the first Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1987 and has been the basis of an award-winning television series (2017-present). Atwood's crisp, remarkably attentive annotations begin at the dedication (to the witchcraft-lynching survivor Mary Webster) and offer insights into multiple aspects of her creation, noting the way in which she has knitted together her speculative fiction both on a conceptual and verbal level from sources ranging from the Bible and American consumerism and popular song to Nazism, Communism and fundamentalist Islamism. She pays particular attention to the inspirations for her choice of proper names ('all aunts are named after products familiar to women in the time before'), places (often in Harvard or Cambridge MA), clothing or objects, and the resonances of particular literary quotations or half-quotations, with at times a minute level of detail (she points out that the lack of a full stop at the end of chapter 24 is intentional); a few annotations point to contemporary resonances of her speculative vision ('too close to reality spring 2020', 'in play now 2020'). One delightfully personal annotation reveals that the carved graffito 'M. loves G., 1972' (chapter 19) translates as 'Margaret loves Graeme' (her partner, Graeme Gibson). The extensive annotations are supplemented by further underlinings of significant or revealing phrases and passages.

Octavo. Original black cloth, spine lettered in gilt, pictorial dust jacket.


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