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38. Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid's Tale

Faye Hammill

Subject Literature

People Atwood, Margaret

Key-Topics science fiction

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405112185.2005.00040.x


Science fiction is a way of looking at things, and it's a way of looking at things that is very hard to do in any other kind of fiction. It's a creation of a different kind of metaphor. Margaret Atwood ( Tidmarsh 1992 : 24) The Handmaid's Tale (1985) remains the outstanding success of Margaret Atwood's career, and is the novel that made her an international celebrity. On first publication, it stayed in the New York Times best-seller lists for 23 weeks, and received the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction and the Governor General's Award, Canada's highest literary honor, as well as being shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Atwood's subsequent books have achieved both extremely high sales and critical respect, and she has won dozens of literary awards, culminating with the Booker Prize in 2000. But she is still frequently identified by readers, reviewers, and websites as “the author of The Handmaid's Tale .” The only one of her books that has been made into a film and, more recently, an opera, The Handmaid's Tale is also repeatedly selected for school and university literature syllabuses. In the twenty-first century, a new reading of this book is needed: one which places it in the context of Atwood's later science fiction writing. Her two latest novels are the most relevant: The Blind Assassin (2000) contains within it a pulp-style science fiction narrative composed by ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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