Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) is being reissued ahead of the upcoming TV series, together with iconic illustrations by Anna and Elena Balbusso. The visuals, originally created in 2012, are influenced by Soviet propaganda posters and have a constructivist style that appears to have been echoed in the anticipated TV adaptation, which follows the story of a totalitarian, post-revolutionary American society.
“I think Anna and Elena have built a convincing depiction of Atwood’s terrifying regime,” says Sheri Gee, art director at the book’s publishers The Folio Society. “I was drawn to them because of a set of illustrations in their portfolio in a cubist, industrialist style that resonated with the book. The illustrations visually strip society bare of personality, making each person of rank identical, in chilling authenticity to the book.”
The release of the TV series, and now the book’s reissue, has caused much discussion in the press due to its “cautionary tale” at a turbulent time in US politics.
“Together with the book, these red-clad handmaids almost serve as beacons to a new generation concerned with women’s rights,” says Sheri, saying the illustrations appeal to a contemporary audience because “we are fascinated by the play of history of that period, of revolutions and dictatorships, they also capture us on a historical, albeit fictional, level”.
The book is published by The Folio Society.