- 26 May 22
The author’s powerful dystopian novel now withstands more than just the test of time.
Earlier this week alongside her publisher, Penguin Random House, Margaret Atwood announced that she has created a single, unburnable version of her famed 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale.
The sole edition is covered in a Cinefoil dust jacket and composed of tinfoil pages, nickel wire binding and a Kapton high temperature adhesive with the ability to withstand up to 1,427 degrees celsius. To prove the newfound power of her already powerful novel, Penguin Random House released a video of the author herself directing a flamethrower at the book, which remained fully unharmed. The video is captioned, “Because powerful words can never be extinguished.”
“It is designed to protect this vital story and stand as a powerful symbol against censorship,” stated publisher Penguin Random House.The non flammable edition will be auctioned off through Sotheby’s New York.
Atwood’s tale has remained as part of the argument surrounding banning books in schools for decades, since its release in the mid-’80s. PEN America has been at the centre of the controversy as a nonprofit organisation which works to protect free expression through access to literature worldwide. Atwood’s nonflammable Handmaid’s Tale edition will be sold through Sotheby’s from now until June 7, with all proceeds – estimated between $50-100,000 – going directly to PEN America.
Atwood’s decision to make her book unburnable arrives in the wake of an uptick in bannings from schools across The United States of books that many consider influential and necessary. In the last ten months, more than 1,500 books have been removed from public school curriculum in certain US school districts as part of a concerning, right-wing censorship movement. Many of the books, such as The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison display a clearly targeted removal of LGBTQIA+ and black people’s stories.
Following the event last February at a Tennessee pastor’s book burning event, Atwood’s novel now stands as a symbol for the power of literature and authors’ refusal to be silenced. Many other writers have joined the fight in claiming the right to their written word.
George M. Johnson, author of one of the year’s top ten most-challenged books All Boys Aren’t Blue, told CNN, “What is at stake when we ban these books are actual lives who need to read their story…so they too know they can exist and thrive in this world.”
The Handmaid’s Tale is set in a dystopian United States, wherein women exist under the conditions of the men they belong to and without rights of their own. The women in the story are raised to bear children, clean the house and make food. Despite the science fiction genre of her novel, the terrifying essence of Atwood’s plot is the line it tiptoes between fiction and reality – many of the events are grounded in religious or political history. And we all know what they say about history and repetition.
Atwood’s nonburnable Handmaid’s Tale is more than an impressive invention. It’s a statement about political and religious control – one engineered to stand not just the test of time, but the danger of fire.
Watch Margaret Atwood try to burn her book in the video below.
- Film And TV
- 29 Jun 22