“Wills”: Margaret Atwood reveals the sequel to “The Scarlet Maid”

Canadian writer Margaret Atwood presented Tuesday in London “The Wills”, a long-awaited sequel to “The Scarlet Servant”, a terrifying misogynistic dystopia that has emerged as a true feminist manifesto in the era of the #MeToo movement.
“These are the kinds of things that escape the book to enter the real world. The author has zero control over it, “the 79-year-old novelist maliciously commented at a press conference, without hiding her feminist views.

For many of her admirers, like 27-year-old Dutch-born Melisa Kumas, her work is “a warning” about violence against women.

Margaret Atwood “pushes me to become more aware of the policy that surrounds me, to pay more attention to the news (…) to make sure that the worst does not happen,” said the young woman AFP at the launch of the book in a London bookstore, all red dressed to recall the uniform of “Scarlet maids”.

Margaret Atwood has taken almost 35 years to imagine this sequel, inspired by the questions her readers asked her. Events have also fueled his thinking.

“I thought about it in the 90s, and then September 11 (2001) changed society,” she says. “You may not remember, but there was once (a world) where there was no security in airports … We became more fearful,” noted the writer, also influenced by the 2008 financial crisis or the victory of US President Donald Trump in 2016.

This second volume, on sale Tuesday, is already announced as a bestseller: he was selected for the Booker Prize 2019, the most prestigious British literary award, and his serial adaptation is already underway.

It should follow the path of the first volume, whose hit TV series aired in 2017 has boosted sales, with eight million copies worldwide for the English edition. The French translation of the “Testaments” will be published on October 10 by Robert Laffont.


“Precious flower”

Imagine the United States becoming “Republic of Gilead”, a totalitarian totalitarian state where leaders, at religious ceremonies – and with the help of their wives -, rape women who can procreate (the “maids”) and then keep their newborns.

In this dark picture, a woman tries to stay alive: June. In the first volume, it is she who reveals, through an anguishing soliloquy, this misogynistic dictatorship, where she is imposed the role of Servant and removes the role of mother.

Because June has two girls, but no rights on them. The first is placed in a family, while the second will eventually be saved and sent to Canada.

“The Wills” tells their story, 15 years later: Gilead, Agnes, “precious flower” educated in guilt, between embroidery courses and forced marriages; in Canada, at Daisy’s place, a teenager who will quickly regret having found her life too ordinary.

Aunt Lydia

But it is especially the voice of a third narrator who holds the reader in suspense: Aunt Lydia, Machiavellian leader of “Aunts”, this group of women responsible for enslaving their fellow citizens, torture in support.

Throughout the chapters, the reader discovers her past as a free woman and the stages of her transformation into a monster, built by instinct of survival against tyrant men, but also by aspiration to power … Until becoming powerful enough to make to shake, in its turn, those who dominate it.

In this three-part narrative, Margaret Atwood reveals Gilead’s innards and faults, offering hope to the reader. “There is reason to be optimistic because these plans tend not to last,” said the silver-haired, eye-writting author.

“Tactic of protest”

“The Scarlet Servant”, already a big success when it was released in 1985, has become a true feminist manifesto of modern times after its serial adaptation in 2017 which allowed it to reach a new audience.

United States, Argentina, Ireland, Poland, Hungary … The “Scarlet maids”, dressed in red capes and white hats, have become a symbol in feminist struggles, as during protests to defend the right to abortion.

“The wave started in Texas (USA) as a protest tactic,” says Margaret Atwood.

Thus dressed, “you do not disturb, you sit there modestly, and you can not be chased, because you are covered, you do not have bare shoulders,” she explained. Before adding about abortion: “Only women should be able to vote on these issues”.

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