Current Issue #478

Margaret Atwood to skip Adelaide on The Testaments book tour

Liam Sharp

Margaret Atwood will visit all Australian capitals throughout February and March in support of her Man Booker Prize-winning Handmaid’s Tale sequel The Testaments. But, there’s a conspicuous gap in the itinerary.

As the author of dozens of acclaimed works from The Edible Woman to Alias Grace, Atwood’s place as a global literary icon is well-established. In recent years, however, Atwood has found herself once more in sync with the zeitgeist, with a hit television adaptation of her 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale paving the way for the writer to pen a long-awaited sequel. Released in September, The Testaments had the unusual honour of being shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize before it was even published, later becoming a rare joint winner alongside Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other.

Who can say why audiences around the world are finding themselves drawn once more to Atwood’s dystopian vision of an America ruled by a misogynistic regime in league with an evangelical Christian right intent on controlling women’s reproductive freedoms? It’s truly a mystery!

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Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale sequel The Testaments was released in September

Another, legitimately baffling head-scratcher is Atwood’s announcement this week of an Australian and New Zealand speaking tour in support of The Testaments. Running for just under a month, the tour will see Atwood travel from Wellington to Perth in a fairly efficient string of near-consecutive dates in February and March taking in Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Melbourne and Hobart. Adelaide is no stranger to missing out on international tours, but the inclusion of Hobart, Perth and Canberra – our regular comrades in the ‘too hard basket’ of Australian touring – is puzzling.

Sharp eyes might have noticed that there is a large week-long hole between Hobart and Perth that lines up rather neatly with the opening days of Adelaide Writers’ Week, which is still to announce its final 2020 program. It would not be the first time Atwood has attended the festival, most recently in 2004 alongside the likes of Isabel Allende, J.M. Coetzee, Richard Flanagan, Clive James, and John Marsden.

But alas, after making enquiries The Adelaide Review can confirm that there are currently no plans for Atwood to come to Adelaide. Which perhaps invites a bigger question: what on earth did Adelaide do in 2004 to warrant such an omission?

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Walter Marsh

Walter Marsh

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Walter is a writer and editor living and working on Kaurna Country, and The Adelaide Review’s Digital Content Producer.

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