Margaret Atwood Releases ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ as an Unburnable Book To Fight Censorship

Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” Crafted Into Unburnable Book to Fight Censorship

Margaret Atwood tests the flammability of the new edition of her renowned work. (Photo: screenshot from Penguin Random House)
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There are many avid book readers that are drawn to dystopias, and such works take on new symbolic import during times of crisis. In recent years, Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale resurged in popularity due to a TV adaptation on Hulu and rising fears about the fate of reproductive rights in the United States. Since its publication, the work has often placed high on lists of most-banned books. These banned book lists have been exploding of late, with the inclusion of sweet children's books and honest conversations on the history of racism in America. In response to this cultural moment, Penguin Random House created an unburnable copy of Atwood's tome—a book which could survive a bonfire.

The book is crafted with a black Cinefoil dust jacket, white heat shield foil pages, a phenolic hard cover, stainless steel head and tail bands, Kapton high temperature adhesive, and bound with nickel wire. These impressive materials can withstand a flame thrower, as Atwood herself demonstrates in a video released by the publishers. An “unburnable book,” the volume references the book burnings of oppressive regimes which have oft heralded scary, intolerant political developments. This message parallels the dystopian world inside the novel—one where women are used as red-cloaked birthers.

This book is not the only one to be uniquely crafted from special materials. Graphic design studio Super Terrain published Fahrenheit 451, a dystopian work centered around a book-burning society, that became readable once heat was applied. A Penguin edition of Nineteen Eighty-Four also steadily wore away its cover to become progressively less censored.

This special The Handmaid's Tale edition will be available on Sotheby's, where bidding has already reached $90,000. Proceeds will go to “PEN America’s work in support of free expression,” according to Penguin. Bidding closes on June 7 at 2:01 p.m. EDT.

Penguin Random House has created an unburnable version of Margaret Atwood's famous novel, The Handmaid's Tale, in protest of censorship and book bans.

h/t: [Open Culture]

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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