United States. An unburnable edition sold at auction to fight against censorship

An unburnable edition of Margaret Atwood’s famous work, The Handmaid’s Tale (
The Scarlet Maid)was auctioned in aid of the fight against censorship in the United States, a growing phenomenon, announced its publisher and the auction house Sotheby’s. “Proceeds will be donated to PEN America which champions freedom of expression around the world,” she said in a tweet.

An offer of 45,000 dollars

The announcement of the operation is accompanied by a video where the Canadian author, 82, an ardent defender of freedom of expression, seems to water her book with a flamethrower without managing to burn it.

On sale online through June 7, 2022, this particular edition, made from fire-resistant paper, has had five bids, the highest at $45,000.

Fight against censorship

The proceeds will be donated to the organization PEN America, which supports authors and artists in danger in the world and fights against censorship, said Sotheby’s and the publisher Penguin Random House.

From July 2021 to March 2022, PEN America recorded 1,586 cases of censorship affecting 1,145 titles in 86 school districts in 26 states, at the initiative of elected school councils or local authorities.

This phenomenon of “banned books” is old in the United States, but the American Library Association (ALA) has identified 729 procedures to challenge the presence of books in libraries, schools and universities in 2021, representing 1 597 titles, a record for over twenty years.

In 2021, libraries found themselves in the midst of a culture war,
conservative groups that have led a historic fight to ban and challenge books dealing with racism, gender, politics and sexual identity “, underlined the ALA in an annual report.

Women and minorities in the line of fire

The prize for the most banned book returned in 2021 to Gender Queerwhere author Maia Kobabe recounts her journey to a non-binary identity.

The Scarlet Maid (1985), a science fiction novel describing a totalitarian regime where women are enslaved, is a work often targeted.


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