World

Margaret Atwood on National Myths and the Roots of Totalitarianism

Margaret Atwood always brushes aside suggestions that her dystopian novels are prescient. But in recent years, it has become difficult to see them as anything but that.

Margaret Atwood has written at least 17 novels, 20 books of poetry, along with short stories and countless essays.Credit…Arden Wray for The New York Times

She appeared as the guest on Friday’s episode of “The Ezra Klein Show,” a New York Times Opinion podcast.

I encourage you to listen to the lively, and often funny, conversation between Ms. Atwood and Ezra. But to give you a taste of it, here are some excerpts, including her thoughts about the recent blockades that paralyzed Ottawa for weeks and shut down border crossings elsewhere.

[Listen: Margaret Atwood on Stories, Deception and the Bible]

On the differences between the stories Americans tell about the United States and the ones Canadians tell about Canada:

It would be “quite difficult to have a totally shared mythology in Canada.”Credit…Kyaw Soe Oo/Reuters

On how the two nations’ stories have evolved:

On her time in Berlin during the 1980s:

Ms. Atwood in New York in 2009.Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

On the origins of “The Handmaid’s Tale”:

On why people can embrace authoritarianism:


Trans Canada

Trail skating north of Ottawa.Credit…Aaron Vincent Elkaim for The New York Times
  • I closed out winter (well at least official winter) with a look at Ottawa’s current mania for recreational skating through the woods. Aaron Vincent Elkaim captured the action with exceptional photography.

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau entered an agreement with Jagmeet Singh of the New Democrats that will, unless it falls apart, allow the Liberals to govern without the potential of an election until 2025.

  • Cade Metz, my colleague who covers artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies, came to Toronto to examine the latest boom in tech companies moving to the city or expanding operations there. His finding: “It is home to more tech workers than Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington, D.C., trailing only New York and Silicon Valley.”

  • In a major shift for Canada’s auto industry, Stellantis, the maker of Chryslers and Jeeps, has joined with LG of South Korea to build a $4.1 billion battery plant in Windsor, Ontario. The factory will create about 2,500 jobs.

  • Already a team on the rise, the Toronto Blue Jays have added Matt Chapman to create what James Wagner, my colleague on the Sports desk, says may be “the best infield in baseball.”

  • A Dutch publisher has said that it is removing the best-selling book, “The Betrayal of Anne Frank,” by Rosemary Sullivan, a Canadian author, from stores. A report by historians found that the book’s claim of having identified the informant who alerted the Nazi police to the Frank family’s hiding place was based on “faulty assumptions” and “careless use of sources.”


A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.


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