Thursday, August 15, 2013

palindromes and palimpsests


“'The act of naming is the great and solemn consolation of mankind.'
     Margaret Atwood found this first epigraph for her William Empson lectures, published as Negotiating with the Dead: A writer on writing (2002), in Elias Canetti’s The Agony of Flies: Notes and notations (1992). The act of naming explains the peculiar title of Atwood’s new novel MaddAddam – the third volume of a dystopian sequence, so far including Oryx and Crake (reviewed in the TLS, May 16, 2003) and The Year of the Flood (TLS, September 18, 2009). The title MaddAddam looks and sounds like a stretched (or stuttered) version of the appellation 'Madam,' but in Atwood’s dystopia it is the collective name for the grandmasters of an elaborate computer game: 'EXTINCTATHON, Monitored by MaddAddam. Adam named the living animals, MaddAddam names the dead ones. Do you want to play?'
     […] Atwood’s exploration of the boundaries between myth, storytelling and written fiction has previously been combined with her interest in sexual politics and the power structures that arise from the raw, biological facts of human reproduction. Most memorably in The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) she evoked another dystopia, the Republic of Gilead, where in the aftermath of nuclear war, fertile women were appropriated by the state and assigned to the households of the governing elite to serve as surrogate wombs.”
— Ruth Scurr, The Times Literary Supplement
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