THE TESTAMENTS | MARGARET ATWOOD

“Dear Readers:

Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book.

Well, almost everything!

The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.”

~ Margaret Atwood

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Finally, I reached my inner sanctum, deep on the Forbidden World Literature section. On my private shelves I’ve arranged my personal selection of proscribed books, off-limits to the lower ranks. Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Paradise Lost, Lives of Girls and Women – what a moral panic each one of them would cause if set loose among the Supplicants! Here I also keep another set of files, accessible only to a very few; I think of them as the secret histories of Gilead. All that festers is not gold, but it can be made profitable in non-monetary ways: knowledge is power, especially discreditable knowledge. I am not the first person to have recognized this, or to have capitalized on it when possible: every intelligence agency in the world has always known it.

The truth can cause a lot of trouble for those who are not supposed to know it.

You pride yourself on being a realist, I told myself, so face the facts. There’s been a coup, here in the United States, just as in times past in so many other countries. Any forced change of leadership is always followed by a move to crush the opposition. The opposition is led by the educated, so the educated are the first to be eliminated.

Aunt Vidala said that best friends led to whispering and plotting and keeping secrets, and plotting and secrets led to disobedience to God, and disobedience led to rebellion, and girls who were rebellious became women who were rebellious, and a rebellious woman was even worse than a rebellious man because rebellious men became traitors, but rebellious women became adulteresses.

I was the age at which parents suddenly transform from people who know everything into people who know nothing.

We were custodians of an invaluable treasure that existed, unseen, inside us; we were precious flowers that had to be kept safely inside glass houses, or else we would be ambushed and our petals would be torn off and our treasure would be stolen and we would be ripped apart and trampled by the ravenous men who might lurk around any corner, out there in the wide sharp-edged sin-ridden world.