Atwood to launch The Handmaid’s Tale sequel with live broadcast

Exclusive: Author’s interview about The Testaments will be filmed at National Theatre in London

Margaret Atwood is to mark the publication of her sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale with a midnight launch in London on 9 September followed by a live interview at the National Theatre broadcast around the world.

There will also be a six-date tour of the UK and Ireland.

The rock-star arrangements reflect just how anticipated publication of her book, The Testaments, is. It will be set 15 years after The Handmaid’s Tale, and returns readers to life in Gilead, a theocratic dictatorship with its roots in 17th century Puritanism that has replaced the United States’ liberal democracy. It is a place where women have almost no rights and are used as enslaved breeding vessels.

The 1985 book was quickly recognised as a modern classic but its popularity has soared much further thanks to the TV adaptation which starred Elisabeth Moss.

In 2017 the book topped Amazon’s annual chart ahead of Stephen King’s It and the Harry Potter and Game of Thrones books. In 2018 it came 10th. In total, sales of the English language edition have topped 8m.

Its sales increase was also helped by the election of Donald Trump in the US. The blood-red cloaks and white bonnets which feature in The Handmaid’s Tale have become a feminist symbol worn in protests against the president as well as by pro-choice protesters in Ireland and Argentina.

Atwood said she was delighted the book was being launched in London, as well as the live-streaming of the National Theatre event on 10 September. “I can’t be in all the places at once in my analogue body, but I look forward to being with so many readers via the big screen.”

The National Theatre event will be an interview on the Lyttelton stage with the broadcaster Samira Ahmed, plus as yet unannounced guests. It will be broadcast to around 1,000 cinemas across the world. Tickets are due to go on sale on Friday, with details at margaretatwoodlive.com.

The midnight book launch will be at Waterstones Piccadilly, and the tour will start at Sage Gateshead on 26 October and finish at the National Concert Hall in Dublin on 2 November.

Atwood said everything readers asked her about Gilead and its inner workings had provided inspiration for the new book. “Well, almost everything … The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.”

Because women’s rights and female empowerment are at the heart of Atwood’s story, the campaigning group Equality Now will be partner in the events around The Testaments’ launch.

Yasmeen Hassan, the global executive director of Equality Now, said when The Handmaid’s Tale came out “we thought the trend for women’s rights was upwards … towards greater equality.

“Events of the past few years have shown us how we can never take progress for granted. The Testaments could not be more timely for us working on gender equality – we need to remain vigilant, persistent and make ourselves heard.”

Contributor

Mark Brown Arts correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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