Magazine article American Libraries

Margaret Atwood: Celebrated Author Looks to the Past and Future for Inspiration

Magazine article American Libraries

Margaret Atwood: Celebrated Author Looks to the Past and Future for Inspiration

Article excerpt

Award-winning author Margaret Atwood's recent projects involve both reimagining a 400-year-old classic and envisioning what literature itself might look like 100 years from now. Her latest novel, Hag-Seed, rewrites The Tempest as part of a new series for Hogarth Press in which celebrated novelists interpret Shakespeare's plays. Atwood spoke with American Libraries about her new work and the future of libraries.

How did you get involved with the Hogarth Shakespeare project? I got an email, of course--all of these things start that way. This email was from Becky Hardy, the Hogarth Shakespeare editor. She asked what play I would choose to do, and I said The Tempest.

What was it about The Tempest that appealed to you? I've written about the Tempest before. In Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing (Cambridge University Press, 2002), one of the chapters is about Prospero and Mephistopheles. The play is about magical artifacts and good or bad, so I already had been thinking quite a bit about it. It's very enigmatic--if you start with the epilogue, it's particularly poignant. The Tempest has never been cut and dried to me. You have many different interpretations of it, every one of them supported by the text, although they are so different.

Can we talk about another recent project of yours, the Future Library of Norway (futurelibrary.no), a time-capsule project of Scottish artist Katie Paterson? A forest has been planted in Norway that will grow for 100 years, and 100 authors will contribute one manuscript. There were some preconditions; one was that what you put in the box had to be made of words only. What kind of artifact made of words would be up to you. There could be two copies only, and those were to be given to the Future Library. And you weren't allowed to say what was in the box. …

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