The first Arabic translation of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel, The Handmaid's Tale, has been unveiled at the Sharjah International Book Fair.
Atwood’s novel, which has been translated by the Saudi Arabian writer Ahmed Al Ali, is one of 11 new translations released at SIBF by Rewayat, an imprint of UAE-based publisher Kalimat Group.
To mark the occasion, a group of women, dressed in the scarlet capes and white bonnets worn by Handmaids in the recent television adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale starring Elisabeth Moss, paraded through the halls of Expo Centre Sharjah carrying copies of the translated novel.
Atwood’s novel, which was published in 1985, is set in the near future in the fictional Republic of Gilead, a theocratic state, which has overthrown the United States government but which is beset by low birth-rates. As a result, fertile women – or “two-legged wombs” – are effectively enslaved and required to bear children for wealthy couples. These women, known as Handmaids, are closely monitored by a secret police force and are, for the most part, forbidden from leaving the house.
The novel explores the oppression of women within a patriarchy and asks what impact this has on our society.
As Atwood says: “Anyone who wants power will try to manipulate you by appealing to your desires and fears, and sometimes your best instincts. Women must be a little cautious about that kind of appeal to them. What are we being asked to give up?”