Publishing giant Penguin Random House recently shared a video of Canadian author Margaret Atwood firing a flamethrower at a copy of one of her most popular works The Handmaid’s Tale, only to reveal that no harm came to the book as it was ‘unburnable’.
The powerful visuals are to promote the upcoming auction of a specially made copy of the classic by New York-based auction house Sotheby’s.
The 1985 novel has been a subject of controversy and heated discussions over the years, especially as its relevance has only increased in recent years. The book is set in the dystopian future with a new world order that subjugates women and reduces them to just their reproductive functions. The novel has been banned from several countries for its ‘vulgar’ and ‘sexually explicit’ content and for supposedly ‘insulting Christianity’. The book was adapted into an eponymous award-winning TV series, starring Elizabeth Moss, in 2017.
Atwood and the publishers have chosen to auction this unburnable edition of the book, which comes with a flame retardant cover, to raise awareness for increased censorship and book burning in places all across the United States.
“The Handmaid’s Tale has been banned many times,” the author wrote in a press release, “Let’s hope we don’t reach the stage of wholesale book burnings, as in Fahrenheit 451,” she added, referring to the acclaimed 1953 novel in which books are destroyed to preserve a totalitarian version of America, “But if we do, let’s hope some books will prove unburnable, that they will travel underground, as prohibited books did in the Soviet Union.”
Proceeds from the auction will go towards a literary advocacy group PEN America. The organisation recently reported that 1,586 books were banned by schools across the USA between July 2021 and March 2022.