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Tag Archives: Margaret Atwood

“Taken to its logical conclusion, every story is sad, because at the end everyone dies. Birth, copulation, and death. No exceptions.

… The picture is of happiness, the story not. Happiness is a garden walled with galss: there’s no way in or out. In Paradise there are no stories, because there are no journeys. It’s loss and regret and misery and yearning that drive the story forward, along its twisted road.”

– Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin


“Why bother about the end of the world? It’s the end of the world every day, for someone. Time rises and rises, and when it reaches the level of your eyes you drown.”

– Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

“Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.”

– Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

“You want the truth, of course. You want me to put two and two together. But two and two doesn’t necessarily get you the truth. Two and two equals a voice outside the window. Two and two equals the wind. The living bird is not its labelled bones.”

– Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

“This joint is peace and plenty, said Will. It’s a soft bed at night and sweet dreams, it’s tulips on the sunny breakfast table, it’s the little woman making coffee. It’s all the loving you ever dreamed of, in every shape and form. It’s everything men think they want when they’re out there, fighting in another dimension of space. It’s what other men have given their lives for.

It’s Paradise, but we can’t get out of it. And anything you can’t get out of is Hell.

But this isn’t Hell. It’s happiness, said one of the Peac Women who was materializing from the branch of a nearby tree. There’s nowhere to go from here. Relax. Enjoy yourselves. You’ll get used to it.

And that’s the end of the story.

That’s it? she says. You’re going to keep those two men cooped up in there forever?

I did what you wanted. You wanted happiness. But I can keep them in or let them out, depending how you want it.

Let them out, then.

Outside is death. Remember?

Oh. I see. She turns on her side, pulls the fur coat over her, slides her arm around him. You’re wrong about the Peach Women though. They aren’t they way you think.”

– Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

“What was a demon-lover, she wanted to know? Why was the sea sunless, why was the ocean lifeless? Why did the sunny pleasure-dome have caves of ice What was Mount Abora, and why was the Abyssinian maid singing about it? Why were the ancestral voices prphesying war?

I didn’t know the answers of Samuel Taylor Coleridge – I’m not sure he had any answers, since he was hopped up on drugs at the time but my own answers. Here they are, for what they’re worth.

The sacred river is alive. It flows to the lifeless ocean, because that’s where all things that are alive end up. The lover is a demon-lover because he isn’t there. The sunny pleasure-dome has caves of ice because that’s what pleasure-domes have – after a while they become very cold, and after that they melt, and then where are you? All wet. Mount Abora was the Abyssinian maid’s home, and she was singing about it because she couldn’t get back to it. The ancestral voices were prophesying war because ancestral voices never shut up, and they hate to be wrong, and war is a sure thing, sooner or later.

Correct me if I’m wrong.”

– Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

“More powerful than God, more evil than the Devil; the poor have it, the rich lack it, and if you eat it you die?

That’s a new one

Take a guess.

I give up.


She takes a minute to work it out. Nothing. Yes, she says. That should do it.”

– Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

“The innocents get slaughtered because they exist, I thought, there is nothing inside the happy killers to restrain them, no conscience or piety; for them the only things worthy of life were human, their own kind of human, framed in the proper clothes and gimmicks, laminated. It would have been different in those countries where an animal is the soul of an ancestor or the child of a god, at least they would have felt guilt.”

– Margaret Atwood, Surfacing

“…as in magicians’ tricks or burglaries half-success is failure.”

– Margaret Atwood, Surfacing

“The trouble is all in the knob at the top of our bodies. I’m not against the body or the head either: only the neck, which creates the illusion that they are separate. The language is wrong, it shouldn’t have different words for them. If the head extended directly into the shoulders like a worm’s or a frog’s without that constriction, that lie, they wouldn’t be able to look down at their bodies and move them around as if they were robots or puppets; they would have to realize that if the head is detached from the body both of them will die.”

– Margaret Atwood, Surfacing

“There are no dirty words any more, they’ve been neutered, now they’re only parts of speech; but I recall the feeling, puzzled, baffled, when I found out some words were dirty and the rest were clean. The bad ones in French were the religious ones, the worst ones in any language were what they were most afraid of and in English it was the body, that was even scarier than God. You could also say Jesus Christ, but it meant you were angry or disgusted. I learned about religion the way most children then learned about sex, not in the gutter but in the gravel-and-cement schoolyard, during the winter months of real school. They would cluster in groups, holding each other’s mittened hands and whispering. They terrified me by telling me there was a dead man in the sky watching everything I did and I retaliated by explaining where babies came from. Some of their other phoned mine to complain, though I think I was more upset than they were: they didn’t believe me but I believed them.”

– Margaret Atwood, Surfacing