EdBookFest | Margaret Atwood and Claire Armistead – MaddAddam Launch
Yesterday saw Margaret Atwood officially launch ‘MaddAddam’ in conversation with Guardian and Observer Books Editor Claire Armistead, and they discussed both the book and the trilogy that it completes. Along with ‘Oryx and Crake’ and ‘The Year of The Flood’, ‘MaddAddam’ rounds of a dystopian vision of the future which has so far been eerily prophetic – despite Atwood’s claims yesterday that she holds no such powers.
After a reading in her wry, dry voice of a passage in which one Zeb kills, skins and eats a bear and then attacks some cyclists, Atwood settled down to the nitty-gritty of her works. Noting that an overall theme of the trilogy has been surveillance, Atwood made some jibes at our own government and their Orwellian tendencies. Although her work involves corporations doing the spying, Atwood asked whether anyone could really tell the difference between Western governments and corporations anymore. This was to be a common occurrence her – Atwood turning the questions posed back on both Armistead and the audience.
Whilst painting a more in depth picture of the Crakers – followers of Crake, their creator – Atwood hinted at themes of identity and agency. How do you define yourself without a backlog of mythology, without even a creation myth? Even the hacking subplot, which she is carrying over from ‘Year of the Flood’, seems likely to hone in on identity, but from a more vulnerable angle. We can expect to be left with a lot of serious contemplation to do then, even though the trilogy itself is coming to a close.
Ending the audience Q & A’s to the accompaniment of fireworks (The Edinburgh Militrary Tattoo loudly making itself known), Atwood took a moment to give us all a little impromptu lesson on feminism. An audience member asked why Atwood had previously denied that she was a feminist, and Atwood responded: ‘tell me what you mean by ‘feminism’ and I’ll tell you how I feel about it’. Refusing to allow her works to be pinned down as ‘tracts (the audience member’s word) which she deems to mean ‘propaganda’ (her word), Atwood reminded us that feminism can often forget the human realities of actually being a woman, and that just because a work portrays women accurately doesn’t mean it was necessarily written so with feminist intentions. It seems as though the thing we are to focus on as this trilogy finishes then, is humanity as a whole, and where we’re all going together (even if that is in a hand-basket to Orwellian hell).
Words: Joanna Thompson
Picture: Entrance of Edinburgh Book Festival, © Edinburgh Book Festival press