Canadian writer Margaret Atwood presents "The Wills" in London, a much-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.
Her work is "a warning" about violence against women, "about what could happen," said Melisa Kumas, a 27-year-old Dutch woman who was attending a bookstore in London on Monday night. red dressed to remind the Servants' uniform.
Margaret Atwood "pushes me to become more aware of the politics that surround me, to pay more attention to the news ... to make sure that the worst does not happen", she added, before listen to the 79-year-old novelist read aloud extracts from the "Testaments".
This second volume, on sale Tuesday, promises to be a huge success: it was selected for the Booker Prize 2019, prestigious British literary award and its serial adaptation is already underway.
It follows the path of its predecessor, whose hit series aired in 2017 boosted sales, which reached eight million copies worldwide for the English edition. The French translation of the "Testaments" will be published on October 10th.
- "Precious flower" -
Imagine the United States becoming "Republic of Gilead", a theocratic totalitarian state where the leaders violate, during religious ceremonies - and with the help of their wives - the women who can procreate (the "maids") to 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, fifteen 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.
- Rifts -
But it is especially the voice of a third narrator who holds the reader in suspense: Aunt Lydia, Machiavellian leader of the "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.
It took Margaret Atwood nearly thirty-five years to imagine this three-part sequel, which reveals the flaws in Gilead's system, inspired by the questions her readers asked her.
- Reality -
"Thirty-five years have given us plenty of time to think about possible answers, which have evolved as society itself evolves and assumptions become reality," she wrote at the end of the book.
"The citizens of many countries, including those in the United States, are now experiencing much stronger tensions than three decades ago," she says.
"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.
Like Debbie Wythe, a 57-year-old British woman who confided to AFP during the launch of the "Testaments", she became "very feminist recently", and especially after watching the series. "Seeing strong female characters on the screen" inspires her. And she's not the only one.
USA, Argentina, Ireland, Poland, Hungary ... The "scarlet maids", dressed in red capes and white hats, have become "an instantly recognizable symbol" in feminist struggles, as during the demonstrations to defend the right to abortion, Margaret Atwood rejoiced in 2017.
© 2019 AFP