The most enigmatic Trumpian warning was written more than thirty years ago . . .
. . . It was an unwitting and prescient novel that blossomed in the spring of 1984. The author, Margaret Atwood was deeply affected by time and place, by her own history, and circumstances that unfolded around her. And so she began to scrawl onto yellow legal pads what would become The Handmaid’s Tale.
She was living in West Berlin back then, the city still encircled by the Berlin Wall with its armed guards, barbed wire, and the hush of pervading fear. During occasional trips behind the Iron Curtain to East Germany and Czechoslovakia she says, “I experienced the wariness, the feeling of being spied on, the silences, the changes of subject, the oblique ways in which people might convey information, and these had an influence on what I was writing. So did the repurposed buildings. ‘This used to belong to . . . but then they disappeared.’ I heard such stories many times.”
Add to the mix that Ms. Atwood was a child of World War II, born the year Hitler invaded Poland. She understood, as precocious children do, that the world can be upended in ways that defy the gravity of reason, shared humanity, and respect for the rule of law—a dystopian view, to be sure. But unlike many apocalyptic authors, Atwood writes from a reality grounded in the everyday and in the competing threads of American culture. In her fictional world, there are still hollyhocks growing in the garden, children who are wanted and loved, fresh bread and hearty soup from home kitchens, along with worship and community, albeit a punitive and barbaric, patriarchal theocracy.
“I experienced the wariness, the feeling of being spied on, the silences, the changes of subject, the oblique
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