Margaret Atwood auctioning “unburnable” copy of Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood auctioning unburnable copy of Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood
Screenshot: Penguin Random House/YouTube

Margaret Atwood has responded to the threat of book burning with a very literal solution: she made The Handmaid’s Tale “unburnable.” The author is auctioning off a very special edition of the story in protest of the rise of book bans across the country.

Penguin Random House announced the auction with a dramatic video in which the 82-year-old writer wields a flamethrower against her novel that’s printed on fire-resistant paper with a flame retardant cover. The concept is so out there it almost looks like a comedy sketch, but Atwood looks undeniably badass shooting flames.

In a statement (via The Guardian), the Penguin Random House said, “Across the United States and around the world, books are being challenged, banned and even burned. So we created a special edition of a book that’s been challenged and banned for decades.” The publishing company described the new printing as “designed to protect this vital story and stand as a powerful symbol against censorship.”

“I never thought I’d be trying to burn one of my own books… and failing. The Handmaid’s Tale has been banned many times—sometimes by whole countries, such as Portugal and Spain in the days of Salazar and the Francoists, sometimes by school boards, sometimes by libraries,” Atwood said in her own statement, per People.

She continued, “Let’s hope we don’t reach the stage of wholesale book burnings, as in Fahrenheit 451. But if we do, let’s hope some books will prove unburnable— they will travel underground, as prohibited books did in the Soviet Union.”

“The Unburnable Book” is being auctioned by Sotheby’s in New York through June 7. As of this writing, the price has already risen to $45,000. Proceeds from the sale will go towards PEN America, an organization dedicated to freedom of expression and fighting censorship in literature. Hopefully the auction makes an impact, because putting a flamethrower in Atwood’s hands probably isn’t a long-term solution-tempting as it may be.


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