Sunday, June 20

Margaret Atwood: “Utopias are coming back because we have to imagine how to save the world” | Culture



She grew up, she says, in northern Canada, where women have never been conceived as a vase. “If I needed a piece of firewood, I would go out and chop it with my own ax,” he says. Today, he adds, he has a chainsaw. His literature cannot be understood, says Margaret Atwood (Ottawa, 81 years old), without that egalitarian, as well as alienating, perception of the world. Because she looked around and that was not what she saw. The work of a writer, said Ray Bradbury, is made of what he fears when he turns off the light at night. And what Atwood fears is what happens when someone takes over and decides that things will be better if they are done their way. Let’s say someone decides that the planet will be better off without humans and causes a pandemic that kills 99% of the world’s population, as happens in his recently rescued work. Oryx & Crake (Salamandra), the starting point of a trilogy that this fall will finally be completed in Spanish. Do you feel like a visionary? “Oh, no, I don’t think this pandemic was intentional, although you never know, life always gives you surprises,” she answers, amused.

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He’s at his home in Toronto. You have miraculously remembered the video call. He was pulling weeds in the garden. He is in a room full of books behind him, and frames with what appear to be small paintings and photographs. She combs her wild white hair and remembers that “I may not have paid them the attention they should because I was a teenager and the adolescents only think about what they are going to do on Saturday night, but it is true that my parents were scientists, biologists , and that at home they met with friends and talked about how badly everything was going to end if we continued like this, but also about all kinds of new discoveries “. “Oh, and I should have been a biologist. My brother will never forgive me. I was better at biology than English. It had a lot of misspellings. He also wanted to be a writer, but in the end he became a biologist. Read my books like a teacher would read an exam, I have to be very rigorous! ”, He explains.

Hence in the trilogy MaddAddam, the one that opens Oryx & Crake, anticipate, for example, fluorescent rabbits that are they invented in 2013 and appearing a decade earlier in that novel, which accurately portrays the speed of today’s world and the unscrupulous exploitation of the environment – to the point of creating animals to simply contain spare human organs – not to mention of a return to a kind of Middle Ages, a social inequality that turns the owners of large corporations into feudal lords whose complexes are surrounded by plebillas, villages where the peasants of that future are living poorly until that future also ends. “Crake believes the world is better off without us and replaces us with crakers, beings that don’t even need agriculture because they eat leaves, they don’t feel jealous, but they can’t help but want to know where they come from ”, he says.

Here is one of the axes of Atwood’s narrative: the creation of the myth. Her first books of poetry were dedicated to, as she says, “reexamining myths and fairy stories”, something that she has continued to do –The Handmaid’s Tale it is still the creation of a myth, an inconceivable past from the future of a conference room— and that MaddAddam complete in the third installment, called precisely MaddAddam, unpublished in Spanish so far, exposing how the historical truth is constructed after showing reality in the two previous installments, Oryx y Crake Y The year of the flood. “The only reason I am going to the future to tell my stories is because I don’t want to have to leave planet Earth and it is in the future where I can control the whole story, as long as it is coherent and plausible,” he says. As a teenager he read the dystopias of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley and wondered why there weren’t women writing them.

“Of course, every dystopia talks about the present. Orwell was talking about 1948 and Huxley was talking about himself coming to Hollywood in the 1930s after having been through the Great Depression, and stumbling upon free sex and exotic foods. Thousands of utopias were written in the 19th century. It is logical. They had seen so many material improvements, so many inventions, that they could only imagine a better world. The 20th was a century of dystopias because it was a century of wars and totalitarianism. It became clear that this idea of ​​the perfect society implied a massacre. You had to kill everyone who disagreed with you to establish your utopia. Every dystopia contains a utopia and on the contrary ”, he points out, and despite everything, he believes that, in this 21st century,“ utopias are going to return ”. Why? “We are going to have to figure out how to organize ourselves so that the planet remains habitable. Utopias are going to come back because we have to imagine how to save the world ”, he replies.

Novelists are not thinkers, he points out, although they can stage the world, “like a film director.” Draw a map. “You have to be cautious, whenever you talk about the future, because every story can end up being believed. Or what happened to Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s utopia, Vril, The power of the future race? Even Hitler believed it and sent a team of explorers to Norway to find the cave that Bulwer-Lytton spoke of, in which a perfect society of the future was hidden, ”he says. The same has happened with The maid’s tale. “There have been those who have begun to wonder how to implement that madness. So you have to be cautious. And keep in mind that what is a dystopia for you may be a utopia for others ”, he adds. And not forget. As it was not forgotten in the 1950s, “when a unitary effort was made – Disney princesses included – to return women home, which was not where they belonged,” he says.

Is there more hope in this fourth wave of feminism than in any of the previous ones? “Everything is in process. When you push, you feel the resistance of the other. Obama’s election was an impulse, Trump’s a backlash. Whenever there is a paradigm shift, there are those who want things to go back to the way they were before. You can always hope to get improvements, and if there is a contrary reaction, endure where you have come, hold the ground, and even press again to get what you had, as happened in the fifties, “he replies. Today, in any case, she adds, “it’s not just about gender equality, it’s also about wealth inequality, which has reached unprecedented proportions since the old French regime, since Henry VIII, and of course , climate change, something that we will have to solve if we want to continue being a species of this planet ”.


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