Margaret Atwood began writing The Handmaid’s Tale while living in in West Berlin in 1984. The Berlin Wall was still standing then, and the culture of that society can be felt throughout the novel.

But as Atwood herself wrote: ‘It can’t happen here could not be depended upon: anything could happen anywhere, given the circumstances.’

Walls come down and new ones – literal or otherwise – go up, and there are loud echoes of today’s world in the novel, too. All of which makes these 9 quotes from the book just as fresh and relevant today as they were in the 1980s.

1.    ‘Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.’

2.    ‘I wait. I compose myself. My self is a thing I must now compose, as one composes a speech. What I must present is a made thing, not something born.’

handmaids tale scene

Photo copyright Hulu

3.    ‘Better never means better for everyone. It always means worse, for some.’

4.     'He was not a monster, to her. Probably he had some endearing trait: he whistled, offkey, in the shower, he had a yen for truffles, he called his dog Liebchen and made it sit up for little pieces of raw steak. How easy it is to invent a humanity, for anyone at all. What an available temptation.’
 

handmaids tale scene

Photo copyright Hulu

5.    ‘I used to think of my body as an instrument, of pleasure, or a means of transportation, or an implement for the accomplishment of my will . . . Now the flesh arranges itself differently. I’m a cloud, congealed around a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than I am and glows red within its translucent wrapping.’

6. ‘That was one of the things they do. They force you to kill, within yourself.’
 

handmaids tale scene

Photo copyright Hulu

7.    ‘Freedom, like everything else, is relative.’

8.    ‘The problem wasn’t only with the women, he says. The main problem was with the men. . . You know what they were complaining about the most? Inability to feel. . . Do they feel now? I say. Yes, he says, looking at me. They do.’
 

handmaids tale scene

Photo copyright Hulu

9.    ‘You can't help what you feel but you can help how you behave.’

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    The Handmaid’s Tale

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    'I believe in the resistance as I believe there can be no light without shadow; or rather, no shadow unless there is also light.'

    Offred is a Handmaid in The Republic of Gilead, a religious totalitarian state in what was formerly known as the United States. She is placed in the household of The Commander, Fred Waterford - her assigned name, Offred, means 'of Fred'. She has only one function: to breed. If Offred refuses to enter into sexual servitude to repopulate a devastated world, she will be hanged. Yet even a repressive state cannot eradicate hope and desire. As she recalls her pre-revolution life in flashbacks, Offred must navigate through the terrifying landscape of torture and persecution in the present day, and between two men upon which her future hangs.

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    BOOK OF THE YEAR: Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard, Stylist, Sunday Times, Financial Times, Guardian, The Times, Observer, Red

    Margaret Atwood’s dystopian masterpiece, The Handmaid’s Tale, is a modern classic. Now she brings the iconic story to a dramatic conclusion in this riveting sequel.


    More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.

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