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Author Margaret Atwood meets with members of The Globe and Mail's editorial board to talk about culture and upcoming federal election. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Author Margaret Atwood meets with members of The Globe and Mail's editorial board to talk about culture and upcoming federal election. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

At the editorial board

Margaret Atwood, uncensored Add to ...

Author Margaret Atwood visited The Globe and Mail editorial board on Thursday, April 21. This is a complete transcript from that meeting. For shorter excerpts, click here.

Ms. Atwood: I'm not a member of any political party, at the moment. Although I have been members of various ones. I was once a Conservative. I joined in order to elect [David]Orchard as leader which did not succeed. So, I've actually only been a member of two political parties. I've been a Green and I've been a Conservative.

Isn't that weird? Yes, I'm one of those swing voters. So I've therefore voted for four different parties in my life. Not the Bloc. Not the Communist Party of Canada.

Sean Fine, Editorial Writer: My mother will be disappointed

Ms. Atwood: About the Communist Party?

John Geiger, Editorial Board Editor: He was traumatized as a youth.

Ms. Atwood: Were you a red diaper baby?

Mr. Fine: I was, yeah.

Ms. Atwood: Oh, what era?

Mr. Fine: I was born in 1960. She wasn't a Communist by then, she quit in 1956.

Ms. Atwood: So at that moment, the light bulb went on, and she realized that Stalin was not nice?

Mr. Fine: It was the Khruschev speech that was printed in the New York Times.

Ms. Atwood: Oh, and "the scales fell from my eyes"?

Mr. Fine: And she says all the good Communists left then.

Ms. Atwood: And how many were those?

Mr. Fine: Well there were quite a few in Canada.

Ms. Atwood: Yeah, there were quite a few. Yes, I came across a very interesting piece of graphic art, which you can get when you visit the Normandy landings, and I believe the parachute museum. And it is a comic book style, bande dessinéeas the French call them.

Which they must have been working on it while Paris was still occupied. And it's the story of World War Two told in animals. So the French are these kindly, funny, sweet little be-fraught bunnies and squirrels meaning no harm.

The British, of course, are bulldogs. The Americans are bison. We have various other animals. I think de Gaulle features as a stork. It's a French thing. And Russia is a white, smiling, friendly bear. So that's right during the war when Russia was the ally.

Mr. Geiger: What were the Germans?

Ms. Atwood: They were wolves and hyenas and one of them was pig. They had an assortment of unpleasant animals.

Mr. Geiger: Sounds like this should be published.

Ms. Atwood: Well, it has been. They've reissued it. The copy I got wasn't an old copy. It had been reprinted and if you fool around in war museums, you find the most interesting things.

Mr. Geiger: Well, thank you for coming in. And really what I'd like to do is invite you to do is make sort of an open statement, and tell us what's on your mind.

Ms. Atwood: Okay. We're talking about the election. Yes.

Mr. Geiger: Yes. And then we'll just open it up to questions. And we'll go from there.

Ms. Atwood: Okay, so the reason I've positioned myself politically is so that you would not accuse me of "Red Emma." You know you're in the middle when people shout at you from both sides. And, therefore, I seem always to be traditionally in that position.

When I published Survival, I actually got attacked more from the left than from the right. Why was that? Because the right didn't notice. They didn't read it, or else they would write letters. This was in the age of letters - remember when people wrote actual letters? The coloured pencils, underlining capital letters, the coloured pencils, underlining things.

That's now the equivalent of The Globe comments section. Comments on the Wednesday piece were pretty much all good, oddly enough. Because usually, you know, you get yelled at from both sides.

But the left yelled at Survival because they were, at that point, internationalist, and suspicious of anything smacking of nationalism. And also they felt there wasn't enough "working persons" writing in the book. Reason being, brackets, not many working people had written, but never mind that.

So that is where it was, and in fact the cultural nationalism of the sixties and early seventies as [Jacques]Parizeau pointed out was not a radical movement, it was a Conservative movement, because it was your Red Tories who were traditionally interested in culture, history, and national affiliations. They were at that time.

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