Since last years’ reading project (the goal was to read 12 Classics in 12 months) was both a success and such great fun, I decided to do it again and read 12 Classics this year – one each month. I chose twelve Classics that had already been waiting for me on my bookshelf, of which six are Classics written in German, as well as six written in English. Those Classics have been titled as such over the course of a few centuries and vary greatly in terms of length, date of publication and genre.
This month I read my second English Classic for this year and I have been anxious to read the book I chose for a very long time. I have read books by the amazing Margaret Atwood before, as well as her short stories and I fell in love with her writing from the very beginning. This one proved to be no exception: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, a feminist dystopian novel first published in 1986.
M A R G A R E T A T W O O D – T H E H A N D M A I D ‘ S T A L E
You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, is what he says.
We thought we could do better.
Better? I say, in a small voice. How can he think this is better?
Better never means better for everyone, he says. It always means worse, for some.
Margaret Atwood | The Handmaid’s Tale | p. 222
With each new story that I dive into, I am more and more fascinated and intrigued by Margaret Atwood’s writing. Maybe you have heard about the story that has been made into a major show on Netflix, telling the tale of a handmaid in a dystopian setting. It is timeless in the message it conveys and, regarding the state of the world right now, send shivers down my spine because of how close it seems to becoming our own reality.
I’m sorry there is so much pain in this story. I’m sorry it’s in fragments, like a body caught in crossfire or pulled apart by force. But there is nothing I can do to change it. – p. 279
In the feminist dystopian novel ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, we listen to what Offred, a woman in her thirties, has to tell about the world she lives in. How it used to be when she grew up and how it at one point changed dramatically, forcing her into a role that she would never have taken on given a choice. The setting is the fictional totalitarian state of Gilead, where most women are infertile. Before the great changes, ‘Gilead’ seemed to resemble the United States of America, but now it is a society built on men’s dominance over women, on fear and producing healthy offspring. That’s what the handmaids in their red clothes and white bonnets are for. They are the breeding machines that seem to be the last chance for a society on the brink of destruction.
But if you happen to be a man, sometime in the future, and you’ve made it this far, please remember: you will never be subjected to the temptation of feeling you must forgive, a man, as a woman. It’s difficult to resist, believe me. But remember that forgiveness too is a power. To beg for it is a power, and to withhold or bestow it is a power, perhaps the greatest. – p. 144
Margaret Atwood tells a story that is disturbing and feels like it could tumble out of its pages at any moment – right into the world we live in. A well planned war was all it needed, cutting off women from their own bank accounts, making them dependent of their husbands or fathers. Just the way it used to be so long ago. I suffered with Offred, I grieved for what she lost and longed for her to be free. Captivating and with a voice somewhat distanced from what happens to her, as a reader you feel every ounce of Offreds pain and longing. A flaming red bird in a cage, that constantly seeks to get out. Atwood’s words are on point, they are intense and they pierce your heart and mind.
You can wet the rim of a glass and run your finger around the rim and it will make a sound. This is what I feel like: this sound of glass. I feel like the word shatter. – p. 113
D I D Y O U K N O W ? A fellow book blogger recently brought to my attention that Margaret Atwood is currently working on a continuation of Offreds story, 30 years after publishing the book that now is a worldwide classic. I can hardly wait for it, because when I finished ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ I literally wanted to scream because of its open ending. You could read anything into it, and that was such a great choice to end the story.
‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is raw and unadorned, it makes you question what is currently going on even more than you already do and it is so, so very believable that it could make you feel uncomfortable while reading. If you haven’t already, put ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ on your reading list so you will be ready for the sequel, ‘The Testaments’, which will be published in September 2019.
Author: Margaret Atwood
Title: The Handmaid’s Tale
Press: Vintage [Random House Imprint]
Year of publication: 1986 [this edition: 1996]
Genre: [Classic | Feminist Dystopian Novel]
Übersicht der 12 Klassiker im Jahr 2019:
Januar: Aldous Huxley – Brave New World
Februar: Hermann Hesse – Siddhartha
März: Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale
April: Stefan Zweig – Sternstunden der Menschheit
Mai: Charles Dickens – Great Expectations
Juni: Theodor Fontane – Irrungen, Wirrungen
Juli: Jules Verne – Around the World in Eighty Days
August: Max Frisch – Homo Faber
September: Bill Bryson – A Short History of Everything
Oktober: Thomas Mann – Mario und der Zauberer
November: Henry James – The Portrait of a Lady [abgebrochen]
Dezember: E.T.A. Hoffmann – Nussknacker und Mausekönig