We’re not at the end of the story yet: Margaret Atwood urges her fans to take action
Can authors see the future? There are too many variables: you can guess, but you might be wrong, said Margaret Atwood. Rather than attempts to predict the future, fictional dystopias are blueprints for alternative worlds that readers could live in.
As dusk darkened into evening over Mantova’s fifteenth century Piazza Castello, Atwood, in a playful conversation with the Argentine-Canadian writer Alberto Manguel, talked about her world events which led to renewed interest in The Handmaid’s Tale, the contribution of dystopian fiction, and called for proactivity in the face of threats to our future.
When The Handmaid’s Tale first came out, 32 years ago, the author thought we were moving away from that vision of the world. Nowadays, things are not so clear. Manguel noted that the 2016 USA election was a publicity coup for the book and the TV series derived from it. "You aren’t the first person to say that," Atwood acknowledged.
The question “do you want to live in a world like this?” has evolved into “do you want to live?”. Climate change is now one of the biggest threats to world peace, in her opinion.
But writers are hopeful people, said Atwood. As well as hoping to finish the book they are working on, they hope to be published, to be read, and to find readers who like and understand their writing. Similarly, we must be hopeful that ideas to tackle climate change will gain traction.
She talked about the Future Library project in Norway, in which one hundred outstanding authors contribute secret stories which will be sealed in an archive for the next hundred years. At the end of this time the forest (planted at the project’s initiation) will be used to print the books. This is a project of hope because it assumes the continued existence of readers, people, trees and even Norway itself.
The Handmaid’s Tale’s anticipated follow up novel The Testaments will be released globally on 10th September. "Is there a third volume on the way?" asked Manguel. "One thing is sure", replied Atwood, "if there is, we won’t be waiting 32 years for it."