An Interview with a Canadian Author: Status of Women, Climate Alarm, Dystopias. On newsstands from February 28, her works: “The Handmaid’s Tale” begins.
Looking back over your long career as a writer, what balance would you create? “Hmm… what can I say? It was fun, but I don’t look back very often: I’m usually busy writing a new book…». Elegant, frenetic and contradictory (even to himself). Margaret Atwood, 83, speaks to “The Courier” on video from her home in Toronto. She didn’t even want to say which book she was closest to. “I can’t, others will take it. They will say to me: But how did we spend so much time together, and we are not your favourites? It is like asking which of your children you love most.”
“Courier” starts publishing her books from the dystopia of the most popular novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale”, which imagines women as simple reproductive machines. It has been almost forty years since he wrote. Yet in some countries the situation for women seems to have worsened.
“It’s not an appearance, it’s real: the facts prove it. It’s gotten worse, especially in Afghanistan. There’s a fight in Iran, and we don’t know what the outcome will be, but people don’t seem to want to stop fighting for more freedom for women. One good thing about Iran is that , has allowed many girls to get an education, albeit under strict religious rules. So now many educated women feel unfairly oppressed. It’s different in Afghanistan: they completely deny education to female students. We’ve seen what’s happening in America… One of the online attacks on female journalists, Especially younger people, it’s a symbolic form of male possession. Ideally I’m attacked for being an old man or something, but I don’t care because I don’t have a job and I can’t be fired. Also, these attacks are on the one hand. Not only from, but from all political sectors. Obviously, a certain number of men feel that women should hold their positions. A record-breaking approach.”
You often anticipate important themes in your books. That is why she is considered a prophet, which she may not like.
“Right, we know what happens to prophets… especially women. It’s okay, thanks…”. (laughs)
However, it is true that he has tackled many important issues before others and before politics. Like climate change. Do you think literature can play a role in making people aware of big issues?
“Of course it can, but it depends on what people read. TV serials reach more people. Readers.” Handmaid’s Tale, for example, increased in 2017 when the series began airing during Donald Trump’s presidency. The series would have been popular if Hillary Clinton had won the election, but not as much. Maybe people would have thought, yeah, nice show, but this women’s submissive situation isn’t going to happen, all risks averted. With all the debate about Trump and what America wants to be — democracy, autocracy, or dictatorship — the issue instead carried a different weight. My Hollywood agent told me: ‘I hate to admit it but you’re the only person who benefited from Trump’s election’.
What does the word commitment mean to you?
“Everybody is always trying to explain to writers what their role should be. I say: let them write, then you read and decide. Don’t make them feel guilty, don’t think that someone who makes art for art’s sake is a brute who doesn’t contribute to society. Who decides what contribution is? Isn’t it about pleasing people? Isn’t it good to make good art? I think so”.
The war in Ukraine at the heart of Europe seems like a sad throwback to the 20th century.
“For someone my age, it’s real. I mean, it feels like we used to be. There’s a book that says Bloodlands. Europe between Hitler and Stalin Written by Timothy Snyder, it talks about Central Europe, the part of the world where the greatest number of deaths occurred during World War II, caused by two opposing forces. One of the reasons why Poland was so strongly in favor of Ukraine was that it was one of the countries invaded in this way, on one side and on the other side, with many casualties. They don’t want this to happen again today. If the people had taken a strong stand during the first invasion, perhaps there would have been no conflict, a line would have been drawn and the cost of crossing it deemed too high. Why do these things happen? There are many reasons, but I think there is a very simple one. You think you can win, and if you win, you get other people’s stuff.”
Last year a special copy of The Handmaid’s Tale sold at Sotheby’s for $130,000 to benefit Penn Club America, which defends freedom of expression. Do you think there is more risk today than in the past?
“Yes. As the killing of journalists around the world has increased, so have their murders Imprisonment. There are countries where journalists are not jailed either because they kill them all or they are exiled. So everything looks good on paper. Very worrying. I went to a meeting of the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression last night and they showed statistics like this. There have also been online attacks against women journalists in Canada. But the question to ask is: Why is this number so high in Italy? Because Canada has more female journalists. Another hot spot regarding censorship is the banning of many titles in American school libraries. The obvious reason is a return to puritanism, as they are mostly sexist books. This is absurd: the Bible is not forbidden, it is full of sex and violence. This partly explains its enduring appeal.
She seems to be always working. What does he do when he’s not writing?
“I do laundry, I play golf, I garden, I cook. Graeme (who died in 2019 when husband Graeme Gibson, Ed) was still with us, and if we had dinner, I took care of the beginning, and he took care of the center. So he took care of the main course, I did the texture and dessert».
What is he writing now?
“Hmm, I can’t say anything. However, let’s say I write on my substack (newsletter site, Ed) Why did I start? Like everyone else: I check Twitter to see how bad things are or if it’s gone in a puff of smoke. Now the person running it, whose name I won’t name (Elon Musk, Ed) and his engineers tweaked the algorithm to give President Joe Biden more exposure. After being frank and fair, it’s all nonsense, blah, blah, blah…”
Every year bookmakers present him among the candidates for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
“Shhh…first you get a Nobel, then die (laughs) One of my favorite awards is for Swedish comedy. My publishers went and bought it from me. The ceremony was held in an open air venue and it was raining so they got very wet. It was a large engraved crystal cup, and someone stole it, so I don’t have that either.
What scares you the most today?
“Growing up in Canada, I don’t get scared easily, but bears and thunderstorms are really scary. The climate crisis is something we’re all very concerned about. And the oceans are at risk of dying because of the release of toxins, including lots of plastic. Simply put, if we kill the oceans, we’ll stop breathing. Because Oceans produce 60 to 80% of the oxygen we breathe, and we don’t do well with 20-40%.
Will there be a third episode of “Ansella”?
“The question is, do we really need it?”
Essays, Novels, Poems: A Cult Writer on 21 Topics
The series dedicated to Margaret Atwood, published by Corriere della Sera in collaboration with the publisher Ponte Alle Gracie, anticipates the publication of 21 novels, essays, short stories and poems. We begin with “The Handmaid’s Tale,” on newsstands February 28. As with the weekly publications, the volume sells for €8.90 excluding the newspaper. The covers of the volumes are illustrated by Anna and Elena Balbusso. After the first three titles – Handmaid’s Tale, WillsAnd Another is GraceThe novels will be published in the Courier series in association with Ponte Ale Gracie Penelope’s Song, cat’s eye, On the other hand, A girl who needs to eat; The MaddAddam Trilogy: Oryx and crake, The year of the flood, Another is the beginning. The novels will continue The blind killer, Finally the heart, personal injury; A collection of short stories Microfiction; Intellectual Negotiating with Shadows, Give and take; Stories of Moral disorderArticles Burning problems. To close the novel Life before manCollections of poems very very And Short scenes of wolves.
February 27, 2023 (Alternative February 27, 2023 | 20:29)
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