Margaret Atwood sets fire to ‘The Handmaids Tale’ for a good cause

Margaret Atwood tests out a fireproof copy of The Handmaid’s Tale with a flamethrower. Who wouldn’t want to see that ironic image?

Book burning, go take a leap. As a symbol against censorship, Sotheby’s took to the Pen Gala last night, to take a stand against ‘book burning’. Partnering with PEN International, Penguin Books, and a little more than a helping hand from Margaret Atwood, yielding a flame-thrower, unveiled the fireproof copy of The Handmaid’s Tale that is up for auction. Not only was the book unveiled but with great ceremony as Atwood tried to set it alight. 

Set to auction for a cool 50,000 – 100,000 USD, with the current bid sitting at $45,000, it’s anyone’s guess at how much this one-of-a-kind copy will end up going for. But it’s all for a good cause. The proceeds from the unburnable book will help to drive greater attention, advocacy, and engagement against censorship with crucial support to PEN, whose only goal is to promote literature and defend freedom of expression worldwide. 

fireproof the handmaids tale
Credit: Penguin

Margaret Atwood’s classic novel The Handmaid’s Tale, currently ranks among the most frequently banned books in the U.S. Just last year it was pulled from the shelves by schools in both Texas and Kansas. 

In a bid to highlight the need for freedom of expression, Atwood set fire to the book to demonstrate the book’s fireproof capabilities. In a video posted on Sotheby’s site, Atwood is shown with a flamethrower as she takes aim at the edition, which is printed on pages made from heat-resistant Cinefoil, sewn together with nickel and stainless steel wire and printed on 3mm phenolic sheets which are used in manufacturing, and inks that withstand 1200°C/2200°F.  Impressive. After which, the pages remain intact and free from any fire damage whatsoever with not even a whisper of black soot to be found.

 “I never thought I’d be trying to burn one of my own books … and failing,” Atwood said in a statement on the night.

 Sotheby notes “The edition is “designed to protect this vital story and stand as a powerful symbol against censorship

 The Fireproof edition of The Handmaid’s Tale benefitting PEN America is up for auction now, you can check out the bidding process at Sotheby’s here