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Margaret Atwood: ‘It would be fun to talk to Simone de Beauvoir’

The author on being banned in Virginia, communicating with dead writers and her new short story collection, the first since the death of her partner

Margaret Atwood is the author of more than 50 books of fiction, poetry and essays. Her novels include Cat’s Eye, The Robber Bride, Alias Grace and The Blind Assassin. Her 1985 classic, The Handmaid’s Tale, was followed in 2019 by a sequel, The Testaments, which shared the Booker prize. Old Babes in the Wood is her first collection of stories since then – and since the death of her partner, Graeme Gibson, the same year. Atwood brings her trademark wit and invention to bear on subjects as diverse as a pandemic, cancel culture, female friendship, witchcraft – and cats. At the heart of the book is a sequence of tales about a long-married couple, Nell and Tig, as they look back over a lifetime together and, in Nell’s case, contemplate a future alone.

This feels like a highly personal collection, especially the story in which Nell is coming to terms with life after her beloved Tig’s death. How much of your own life is reflected in their tales of love and loss?
The stories are pretty true to the life we shared and to life since Graeme died. Of course, they are obviously not the whole story – they’re facets of it, snapshots in time.

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