While book burnings are not as prominent as they once were, both sides of the political spectrum have participated in some sort of attempted censorship or demonstration of their disagreement with printed material by roasting the written word.
The Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood has teamed up with Penguin Random House and Sotheby’s to fight this trend by offering up an unburnable edition of her classic 80s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale.
In a video advertising the Sotheby’s auction, Atwood is seen holding a flamethrower to the book to prove her point. The book is printed on fire-resistant material and bound with a flame-retardant cover, thanks to Toronto graphic arts and bookbinding studio The Gas Company Inc. and the Rethink creative agency.
“We thought an unburnable copy of ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ could serve as a symbol,” said Rethink’s Robbie Percy, who, along with creative director Caroline Friesen, came up with the idea.
Instead of traditional paper, The Gas Company used specially treated aluminum sheets known as Cinefoil to create the book’s pages. But that process proved to be more difficult than originally planned as the pages were so thin that they would become damaged in the printer. The final product was eventually sewn together by hand with nickel copper wire.
“The only way you could destroy that book is with a shredder,” The Gas Company’s principal owner, Doug Laxdal, told the AP. “Otherwise, it will last for a very long time.”
While Atwood admits that she doesn’t know of any actual burnings of her book, this auction is meant to bring attention to book bans around the world. The Handmaid’s Tale itself has been a target for several attempted bans from public school curriculums, but none of those stuck.
Currently, the auction for unburnable edition of The Handmaid’s Tale is up to $70,000 on Sotheby’s website with an expected closing price of around $100,000. The auction will run until June 7 and proceeds will benefit PEN America.