TIME

MARGARET ATWOOD: SAW IT ALL COMING

MARGARET ATWOOD WANTS TO KNOW MORE ABOUT The Bachelorette. We’re chatting in her publisher’s office in Toronto when I mention the dating show where 30-some men vie for the affection of a single woman, all on camera. She has questions: “Why are they even participating in this?” “What if they’re rejected?” “I’m wondering if she’s just pretending to go along with it?”

There is an irony here, observing Atwood equate the show to Sartre’s adage “Hell is other people” come to life. She is, after all, known for a book that describes one of the most brutal mating rituals in the canon. In her landmark 1985 novel, a totalitarian theocracy has taken over the U.S. in the midst of a fertility crisis. Offred, one of few women who can still bear children, is forced to participate in reproductive-slavery ceremonies in the Republic of Gilead. Offred’s story ends with a notoriously ambiguous cliff-hanger: she steps into a van that will take her either to a new book that promises to resolve that mystery and many more.

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