'Unburnable' Copy of Handmaid's Tale Auctioned for $130,000

by Hillel Italie

Associated Press

Wednesday June 8, 2022

Author Margaret Atwood attends the Glamour Women of the Year Awards in New York on Nov. 11, 2019
Author Margaret Atwood attends the Glamour Women of the Year Awards in New York on Nov. 11, 2019  (Source:Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

A specially commissioned, unburnable edition of Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" has been auctioned for $130,000, Sotheby's announced Tuesday.

Proceeds will be donated to PEN America, which advocates for free expression worldwide. The 384-page book consists mainly of Cinefoil, a specially treated aluminum product, and was announced last month at PEN's annual fundraising gala. To help promote the initiative, Atwood agreed to be filmed attempting — unsuccessfully — to incinerate a prototype with a flame thrower.

"I'm very pleased that the one-of-a-kind Unburnable Book of 'The Handmaid's Tale' has raised so much money for PEN America," the Canadian author said in a statement. "Free speech issues are being hotly debated, and PEN is a sane voice amidst all the shouting. The video of the book being torched by me and refusing to burn has now had a potential 5 billion views. We hope it raises awareness and leads to reasoned discussion."

The fireproof book was a joint project by PEN, Atwood, Penguin Random House and two companies based in Toronto, where Atwood is a longtime resident: the Rethink creative agency and The Gas Company Inc., a graphic arts and bookbinding specialty studio. "The Handmaid's Tale," a million seller first released in 1985, is a Dystopian novel about a cruel patriarchy known as the Republic of Gilead. It has been subject to various bannings since publication.

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