Margaret Atwood


The beginning of Canadian cultural nationalism was not “Am I really that oppressed?” but “Am I really that boring?”

interview published in the Ontario Review

If I were going to convert to any religion I would probably choose Catholicism because it at least has female saints and the Virgin Mary.

Farewells can be shattering, but returns are surely worse. Solid flesh can never live up to the blind shadow cast by its absence.

Beginnings are sudden, but also insidious. They creep up on you sideways, they keep to the shadows, they lurk unrecognized. Then, later, they spring.

Better not to invent her in her absence. Better to wait until she’s actually here. Then he can make her up as she goes along.

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… The living bird is not its labeled bones.

In this daydream, Winifred and her friends, wreaths of money on their heads, are gathered around Sabrina’s frilly white bed while she sleeps, discussing what they will bestow upon her. She’s already been given the engraved silver cup from Birks, the nursery wallpaper with a frieze of domesticated bears, the starter pearls for her single-strand pearl necklace, and all the other golden gifts, perfectly comme il fault, that will turn to coal when the sun rises. Now they’re planning the orthodontist and the tennis lessons and the piano lessons and the dancing lessons and the exclusive summer camp. What hope has she got?

I wonder which is preferable, to walk around all your life swollen up with your own secrets until you burst from the pressure of them, or to have them sucked out of you, every paragraph, every sentence, every word of them, so at the end you’re depleted of all that was once as precious to you as hoarded gold, as close to you as your skin – everything that was of the deepest importance to you, everything that made you cringe and wish to conceal, everything that belonged to you alone – and must spend the rest of your days like an empty sack flapping in the wind, an empty sack branded with a bright fluorescent label so that everyone will know what sort of secrets used to be inside you?

There was old sex in the room and loneliness, and expectation, of something without a shape or name. I remember that yearning, for something that was always about to happen and was never the same as the hands that were on us there and then.

The more difficult it was to love the particular man beside us, the more we believed in Love, abstract and total.

All I can hope for is a reconstruction: the way love feels is always approximate.