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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

President Bush will soon bring Gilead to America!

Some time ago a striking article by Fiona Maddocks appeared in the London Evening Standard. The link that Google gives you to the Evening Standard’s own site is dead, but I found a working one on Questia. Here it is:

A Twist in the Tale; Margaret Atwood Is Dreading the UK Premiere of the Opera of Her Novel the Handmaid’s Tale – It Will Be a Shocking Theatrical Experience

THE question all readers of The Handmaid’s Tale want to ask its Canadian author, Margaret Atwood, is: “How did you know?” Her 1986 best seller, set in a futuristic totalitarian regime called the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, has chilling prescience: Christian fundamentalists have seized control and imposed repressive laws, brainwashing women and depriving them of all the rights they have spent the past 1,000 years securing – education, property, freedom to give birth when and via whom they choose.

(I commented at the time, “I don’t know why poor old Dubya does hold off from imprisoning all the women and depriving them of their names so that the top men’s personal concubines are called “ofdonald”, “ofjohn” and “ofdubya”, according to the system described in the book. That’s obviously what he wants, as proven by the fact that he sometimes goes to breakfast prayer meetings, and it’s not like he gets any credit for restraint.”)

The book, already translated into 35 languages and a regular A-level and university set text, was turned into a film starring Natasha Richardson, with a script by Harold Pinter. Tonight an operatic version of this dark fable, by the Danish composer Poul Ruders and British librettist Paul Bentley, receives its first UK performance at the Coliseum, having been premiered to rapturous reviews in Copenhagen three years ago.

[…]

To underline contemporary parallels, English National Opera’s publicity material shows a woman, naked and heavily pregnant, prone on an unfurled Stars and Stripes, observed by a helmeted soldier.

“There’s nothing new in The Handmaid’s Tale,” Atwood says. “One of my rules was that I couldn’t put anything into the novel that human beings hadn’t actually done. Stories exist within the world. They’re not on some other planet called literature or the moon.” Small, droll, benignly austere, Atwood hardly strikes you as a Cassandrine figure. Only her startling eyes, clear blue, slightly exotic and almond shaped, hint at some farseeing otherness.

[…]

The general critical response was ‘what a jolly good yarn’, and that was the end of the matter. You’d had Oliver Cromwell and religious war. You wouldn’t expect it to happen again. In Canada, instead, people asked, ‘Could it happen here?’

“Well, no, probably not, because of Canada’s history and its disparate elements. Only in America did people ask, in utter seriousness, ‘How long have we got?’ They realised that they were closest of all to the real thing, especially compared to Europe, which is now so much more secular a place than the States.

“How long did they have?” asks the narrator, in an epilogue written long after the events described. Since that article was dated April 3rd 2003 and the Gileadification of America is not yet upon us we can safely answer “a minimum of 16 years, 5 months and 8 days”. But do not be deceived. Gilead is coming. Real soon now.

“The Handmaid’s Tale increasingly rings true”, writes Alice Thomson in today’s Times.

They walked, heads bowed under their white bonnets, red capes trailing along Piccadilly, past men in Lycra ogling on their bikes and into Waterstones. “Don’t let the bastards grind you down,” women shouted at the fertile handmaids as they joined the midnight celebrations for the publication of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments. There were green drinks and talks on how to embroider feminist wall hangings. Then the 79-year-old prophet spoke, warning that her characters had a new resonance in her dystopian sequel because of threats to women’s rights.

She wasn’t just talking about President Trump boasting of grabbing women “by the pussy” and curtailing their reproductive rights but about any country trying to force women back into the “unnaturally cramped spaces” from which they had so recently emerged.

[…]

We pretend that women’s rights are still progressing, with more jobs for the girls and in some areas more equal pay, but in many ways Britain feels increasingly like Atwood’s theocracy of Gilead where women are expected to know how to cook a quiche, the man is master and only the sisterhood saves them. #Silenced, which started trending yesterday, seems to be about so much more than the proroguing of parliament: it’s about vulnerable groups, women, gays and ethnic minorities once more feeling excluded from the hierarchy. “Are we to be silenced like little mice,” as the handmaid Offred says in Atwood’s novel.

The prime minister thinks nothing of using femininity as an insult, calling Jeremy Corbyn “a great big girl’s blouse”, associating masculinity with power. The journalist William Cash wrote an article this week about having a relationship with a former girlfriend of Boris Johnson as though she were some vassal, and volunteering to bring his illegitimate child up for him. David Cameron’s “calm down dear” now seems relatively benign.

Good, so you won’t mind if I say “Calm down dear” to you.

25 comments to President Bush will soon bring Gilead to America!

  • Kevin B

    They walked, heads bowed under their white bonnets, red capes trailing along Piccadilly, past men in Lycra ogling on their bikes and into Waterstones. “Don’t let the bastards grind you down,” women shouted at the fertile handmaids as they joined the midnight celebrations for the publication of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments.

    Meanwhile in another part of London a group of women covered from head to toe in shapeless black robes with just a small slit over their eyes to allow minimal vision walks along the street with their pushchairs in front of them. No-one takes much notice of them since such sights are commonplace here. No=one shouts any words of encouragement at these poor, downtrodden women. There are no books written or plays performed or operas sung to draw attention to the suffocating patriarchal system they live under. As far as the luvvies are concerned these women don’t exist yet theirs is the future the darlings will soon face.

  • pete

    The US is a democracy where women have the vote.

    Any so-called curtailment of women’s reproductive rights, such as the closing of abortion clinics or laws restricting abortion is a result of the democratic process, and as much the decision of the nation’s women as of its men.

  • Flubber

    The nonsense of all of this was that The Handmaid’s Tale was written as a critique of Islam, which modern leftists/feminists suck up to.

    The irony is palpable.

  • Fred Z

    Atwood took the fundamentals of the plot from an old Heinlein novel, “Revolt in 2100”.

    Stealing like that is fine, so long as it’s done with thanks and acknowledgement.

    Atwood is a creepy socialist snerger.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    “snerger” ??

    I am always keen to expand my knowledge of Anglicisms. I thought I had reached the Outer Limit of that section of the English language with “snudge” — mildly relevant, since we are talking about women. But “snerger” is new. Any definition or guidance on appropriate usage? (Beyond its applicability to Ms. Atwood).

  • CaptDMO

    They walked, heads bowed to their “smart” phone masters, under their hand knit pink pussy hats,
    past antiFa clad TERF warriors, oogling in their Legions lines from the unemployment debit card renewal
    campus…
    “Don’ let the bastards get you down!” the naked and afraid real housewives of bachelor island Tweeted!”
    Well, you get the idea.
    Now let’s have a double header with the ORIGINAL “Vagina Monologues”…the musical!

  • Julie near Chicago

    Christ on a crutch !!!

    That constitutes my deep intellectual contribution to this topic.

    But a teensy-weensy additional unintellectual thought:

    That woman has been smokin’ some mighty fine ginger. Unfortunately she seems to have given double rations to the reviewers.

    Never mind.

    I note with deep and violent appreciation Kevin’s mention of the Modern English Freedwoman, whose male minders may let her leave the house if she’s wearing a black tent with a letterbox slit. Or not, of course.

    .

    By the way — the Telegraph link works here.

  • Kevin B (September 11, 2019 at 5:53 pm) wins the thread for my money.

    #Silenced, which started trending yesterday, seems to be about so much more than the proroguing of parliament:

    Yes, to these crazies, Boris mocking the burka proves he will be the one to force them into it. In PC logic, Boris mocks burka = Boris is bad prejudiced un-woke man = Boris will force women into religiously-justified, constraining, all-covering (and unflattering) garb.

    The nonsense of all of this was that The Handmaid’s Tale was written as a critique of Islam (Flubber, September 11, 2019 at 7:28 pm)

    Not so; if I recall correctly (it is years since I read it), a pretended attack of (Arab IIRC) terrorists (in fact done by the security agencies themselves) both slaughters senators and others of the political class and justifies emergency powers, the combination enabling the setting up of the new government, whose ideology claims to be Christian (with an emphasis on the old testament). There is nary a hint of criticising Islam that I recall. The republic of Gilead is nominally hostile to communist Russia (though it is hinted that in practice each side tacitly allows the other peace to deal with rebellions within its empire) and, being nominally Christian, is hostile to other religions, though the book implies it spends far more time oppressing its womenfolk at home than proselytising abroad.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Barely on topic — Rather than an operatic version of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, Samizdatistas would be well advised to spend an evening with the 2016 Korean movie ‘The Handmaiden’. The Korean title might better be translated as ‘The Lady’, but perhaps the international marketers chose a title reminiscent of Ms. Atwood’s magnum opus to draw in an audience. Both Korean & English movie titles work, since two of the primary characters are a rich Japanese heiress in pre-WWII Japanese-occupied Korea and her illiterate Korean maid. An entertaining convoluted plot involving duplicity, deceit, betrayal, and revenge as abused women empower themselves.

    One might imagine that the Korean movie would appeal to Ms. Atwood’s audience — but it would require them to be able to read subtitles.

  • Eric

    The book, already translated into 35 languages and a regular A-level and university set text…

    Does this mean university students are forced to read Atwood’s fever swamp dream? That’s criminal.

  • Rob

    Surreal. Women are #silenced to such an extent that the mass media is full of them, absolutely jammed, all of them yelling nonsense like this.

    The prime minister thinks nothing of using femininity as an insult, calling Jeremy Corbyn “a great big girl’s blouse”, associating masculinity with power.

    FFS, seriously? Is that really the best you have? It is desperate, pathetic. Only possession of the Megaphone allows you to get away with this.

  • Rob

    The book, already translated into 35 languages and a regular A-level and university set text

    Of course it is, they didn’t waste any time there, did they? Young people are not only being politically indoctrinated with lies, in a stroke of genius they now have to pay huge sums for it to their deceivers.

  • bobby b

    There was a time when people aspired to be heroes.

    Now it seems people want to be the biggest little victim.

    Maybe it pays better?

  • Snorri Godhi

    Let me put in a good word for the movie version of The Handmaid’s Tale, mentioned in the OP.

    A disclaimer: at the time i saw the movie, i was prejudiced against American Christian fundamentalists, but still i thought (and still think) it so absurd that they could take over the US, that i saw that as nothing more than a plot device.

    With this attitude, i could appreciate, if not exactly enjoy, the movie, because it shows what life would be like under an oppressive theocracy*. A much more realistic dystopia than V for Vendetta in my opinion.

    * where by “oppressive theocracy” i mean, basically, the rule of Divine Law (as opposed to rule by humans or by human-made Law) but an oppressive form of Divine Law.

  • John B

    Or one could say that Obama has brought Reverse-Gilead to the US. Men have been emasculated, and are all called of#MeToo, gender can be whatever anyone wants, and all are being forced to convert to the Climate Change Religion – the cause of the next religious war, Climatism against Protestantism (those who protest Climatism is a money-making racket and non-evidence based Faith.)

  • ROBERT SYKES

    Christianity in America was already moribund when Atwood wrote her novel. The only kind of Gilead that might conceivably occur is Islamic.

    And John B is right. The West is now obviously a matriarchy, and Black Ruled America, to cite Kersey, is a reality.

  • Fred Z

    Gavin Longmuir: It’s from ‘snergery’, a word for casual theft invented by another science fiction writer, Jack Vance in his “Wyst: Alastor 1716”. It’s a mildly amusing dystopic anti-communism novel where society descends into snergery, and ultimately into cannibalism because, as usual, communism fails even to produce proper food.

    Had I bothered to check it I would have found that Vance actually would have called Atwood a ‘snerge’.

    https://books.google.ca/books?id=-Ti8uwj5mVQC&pg=PT39&lpg=PT39&dq=snergery&source=bl&ots=nbXxJZGGkl&sig=ACfU3U3CC4brwkx42QSCh5a4NaSfBoeYIQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjWj_3o4MvkAhWWop4KHdO5BfYQ6AEwAXoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=snergery&f=false

  • Pat

    Whereas the author doubtless envisages a female heaven, where girls shag around just like guys were supposed to (thus saving the guys all that effort, time and money courting, and obviating any need to show commitment).
    A world where women do everything – so men don’t have to.
    A world where women have cats instead of children or grandchildren.
    Sounds like heaven!

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Fred Z: “It’s from ‘snergery’, a word for casual theft invented by another science fiction writer, Jack Vance in his “Wyst: Alastor 1716”.”

    Thanks for the sourcing on that word, Fred. Sadly, it seems like a word whose time is rapidly approaching.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . i was prejudiced against American Christian fundamentalists, but still i thought (and still think) it so absurd that they could take over the US . . . “

    I remember, back in college (1977?), one of those late-night group discussions in the dorm in which it was decided that I could never attain elected office in the US because I was not a practicing Christian.

    And then I read, a few weeks ago, the account of one young woman about a recent similar late-night group discussions in her dorm in which it was decided that she could never attain elected office in the US because she WAS a practicing Christian.

    The fundies may have had some democratic power in our system forty years ago – because they all voted, loudly – but they’re a spent force now.

  • Stephen W. Houghton II

    The Parable of Naweristan

    In Central Asia, there is the land of Naweristan. It is inhabited by two tribes or ethnic groups the Azari and the Bakahari. The Azari make up a little less than 51 percent of the population and Bakahari a little more than 49 percent.
    Since Naweristan is electoral democracy, the Azari are naturally in a position to control the government, especially since they are more likely to register to vote than the Bakahari and thus make up 53.6% of the voters. It is thus not surprising that in many instances the law favors Azari in disputes with Bakaharri. One indication of this imbalance is that Bakahari make up 93 percent of the prison population.
    Naweristan society also tends to favor Azari. They own more than 60 percent of the country’s wealth. By convention, an Azari may assault a Bakahari without consequence as long as no permanent damage is done, this is in fact a stock scene in Naweri comedy, but the reverse is not true. Azari make up 60 percent of college graduates, they earn more than 58 percent of masters degrees and more than 51 percent of doctorates. Azari are widely and traditionally considered by Naweri the epitome of moral goodness and rectitude, while Bakahari are considered violent and brutish.
    Bakahari fill the most dangerous jobs in Naweristan society suffering more than 90 percent of the work place fatalities. The combat arms of the Naweristan Army are made up almost exclusively of Bakahari who represent 88 percent of combat fatalities. The Bakahari have an average lifespan five years shorter than Azari. It is perhaps not surprising that Bakahari make up more than 75% of suicides in Naweristan.
    Which of these groups would you consider oppressed?
    Now consider, that disturbingly there is a growing ideology, rooted in the traditional view of Azari as caring and Bakahari as brutish, that holds that Naweristan is a society in which the Azari are oppressed. That Naweristan is a Bakahariarchy in which the needs of Bakahari are prioritized over the needs of the Azari, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. The latest move by this Azari supremacist movement is to openly consider the testimony of Azari of more probative value than that of Bukahari. This is being called “listening to Azari.”
    Now let us drop the pretense that I am talking about anything other than men and women in the United States, so that I can admit that this only tells part of the story, but it does show that anyone who thinks we live in a patriarchy is delusional.

  • TDK

    This stuff is routine for the Guardian
    eg. 2007 article about Fascism in 10 easy steps.

    What is more surprising is how readers can forget the last scare and believe in the latest one. These are supposedly intelligent people who will have read Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine” – yet it never occurs to them that they are the dupes.

  • Pyrthroes

    For good-and-sufficient reason, feministical “suffragettes” attained full fruiting-body status about 1920: Only with the advent of explicitly Western mass-commercial culture –exemplified by broadcast radio, small-scale electric motors, Ford’s postwar Model T– could society support such warbling verbalizers, claiming much while contributing absolutely nothing.

    Scratch a femmer, find a self-entitled mealworm dining out at real-world expense. After a century battening on unearned increments, these rump-fed ronyons are creaking fifth square-wheels compromising everything they touch.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Stephen:

    (…) I can admit that this only tells part of the story, but it does show that anyone who thinks we live in a patriarchy is delusional.

    Well said indeed.
    At the risk of sounding mono-maniacal (when i am actually at least bi-maniacal, and that is in politics: i am multi-maniacal outside politics) i’d like to tell another part of the story.

    There is no patriarchy and no matriarchy. There is a system in which men in the ruling class can abuse middle-class women with impunity (not in all countries, but in at least some US Blue States, eg California) and men in the criminal underclass can abuse underclass women with impunity (in pretty much all countries).

    That is not patriarchy: men in the middle class and working class have no privilege. On the contrary, they have to bear the burden of the sins of the ruling class, and of the criminal underclass.

  • Paul Marks

    The “woke” corporations (even supermarkets now) push the works of Margaret Atwood – just as the “woke” corporations have long pushed works of Philip Pullman.

    It is wrong to think that people such as Atwood and Pullman are making honest mistakes when they attack Christianity – they are not making honest mistakes, they are deliberately lying, their fictional works have a political and cultural agenda in the real world, an agenda of the destruction of Western society. They are a small part of a vast movement (which has long dominated the education system and dominates the mass media) to destroy the West.

    Ironically the lies of Atwood about Christianity are partly true in relation to ISLAM (a real threat to the rights of women, and others, in the West) – but I doubt that Margaret Atwood, or the “Woke” corporations who push her works, would welcome that being pointed out to them.

    By the way – the actually essays on the “fundamentals” of Christianity (published in the early 1900s – from which the word “fundamentalist” comes) have nothing to do with oppressing women, or even in opposing evolution (indeed several of the writers were firm supporters of biological evolution).

    The actual essays on the “fundamentals” were about such matters as that Jesus was God (not just a good man) and that humans could survive death as INDIVIDUALS (rather than dismissing the individual soul and concentrating on the collective) – the essays are far from perfect (for example their swipes at Roman Catholics are not good), but their main target was the “Social Gospel” which aimed at replacing God and individual freedom with the worship of THE STATE.

    Far from being totalitarians – the actual writers of the essays on the “fundamentals” in the early 1900s were ANTI totalitarians, opposing the rise of tyranny. It was the “socially aware”, “Social Gospel”, “Social Justice” “modernising” “Christians” who were pushing tyranny – and they still are pushing tyranny, and they use “compassion” and the desire for “fairness” as a mask. They take what should be the responsibility of human beings (free will souls) and give it to THE STATE – and it is the collective they worship (not God). The “Social Justice” crowd (or at least their leaders) even reinterpret the word “God” to mean the collective – not an individual being.

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