The fireproof edition “Handmaid’s Tale” is auctioned: a “symbol against censorship”

A record number of books were banned or challenged in the United States last year, part of a push by conservatives to slow down discussion questions that some find unpleasant. Today, author Margaret Atwood is responding to mounting censorship by auctioning a fireproof edition of her novel ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, which ranks among the most frequently banned books in the United States.

In a video posted on Sotheby’s website for “The Unburnable Book”, Atwood is shown with a flamethrower as she takes aim at the edition, which is printed on pages made of heat-resistant material Cinefeuille, sewn with nickel thread. The flames lick the book, but the pages remain intact.

“I never thought I would try to burn one of my own books…and fail,” Atwood said in a statement.

The edition is “designed to protect this vital story and stand as a powerful symbol against censorship,” the auction site notes.

The Unburnable Book: THE HANDMAID’S TALE by Margaret Atwood by
Random penguin house on

The auction, which puts the expected sale range at $50,000-$100,000, will direct all proceeds to PEN America, a group that champions free speech and plans to use the money to support those efforts. . “The Handmaid’s Tale,” first published in 1985, is a dystopian vision of a future America where women are stripped of their rights and live under a theocracy that values ​​them strictly for their reproductive abilities.

Interest in “The Handmaid’s Tale” has grown amid a Supreme Court draft opinion leaked which, if finalized, would pave the way for states to severely restrict abortion rights in the United States. The prospect of nullification of Roe v. Wade elicited comments on the book’s foreknowledge and its relevance to modern events.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” has been one of the most contested publications in America, with the American Library Association (ALA) noting that it has been targeted for “vulgarity and sexual overtones”.

Efforts to ban the books have increased over the past year, with the ALA finding there were a record 729 challenges for more than nearly 1,600 titles in 2021, double the number in 2020 .

Atwood said in the statement that his book has been banned “by whole countries, like Portugal and Spain in the days of Salazar and the Francoists, sometimes by school boards, sometimes by libraries.” She also expressed hope that the company doesn’t get to the point “of wholesale book burning, like in ‘Fahrenheit 451,'” referring to the Ray Bradbury classic.

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More recently, Barnes & Noble was pressured a Virginia lawmaker and congressional candidate to restrict sales of two books deemed “obscene” to minors without parental consent. The candidate, Tommy Altman, said he was running for Congress to protect freedom, including the right to free speech. One of the books the pair are aiming to narrow down is the most contested book of 2021, Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer” memoir.

“To have [Atwood’s] classic novel about the dangers of oppression reborn in this innovative and immortal edition is a timely reminder of what is at stake in the battle against censorship,” Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle said in a statement.

James V. Hayes