The Dystopian Future is Already Here: Margaret Atwood to speak in Sydney

Photography George Whiteside

Photography George Whiteside

For one day only, renowned author and literary icon Margaret Atwood is sharing her unique thought process with Sydneysiders. In the lead up to 2019 International Women's Day, on Sunday March 3 Atwood will hold a symposium at the Sydney Opera House, presented by the UNSW Centre for Ideas.

With a body of work built up over half a century, Atwood has often suggested that the impending dystopian futures can be foretold by tracing the repercussions of present day human behaviours and actions. From her vision of a totalitarian regime in The Handmaid's Tale in 1985 to her recent MaddAddam Trilogy, Atwood's work creates distressing new societies for readers to immerse themselves in. However, these worlds are not born of pure imagination, but are grounded in events and discussions occurring at the time of writing. 

Seeking to convey the importance and ongoing relevance of today's activities on tomorrow's future, Atwood applies her unique thought process and artistic vision to the key issues of today's world, presenting an opportunity for audiences to see the world in a fresh light. From extremist policies to our relative inaction in regards to climate change, Atwood explores the positive and negative potential outcomes for our present and future.

"Every totalitarian government on the planet has always taken a very great interest in women's reproductive rights," commented Atwood. An unsetting notion in itself, but it is this transhistorical perspective that has made Atwood’s work so continually relevant. It's an insight which influenced The Handmaid's Tale, a dystopian future where women's reproductive rights were governed by a patriarchal administration; drawing parallels to society today almost 30 years later. 

In presenting this talk, The UNSW Centre for Ideas seeks to highlight thought provoking and challenging ideas in a public forum through a series of exchanges with leading thinkers from around the globe. The program forms part of the UNSW's 2025 strategy, and is a platform for public debate and accessible knowledge. “Margaret Atwood has a unique place in world literature. She is someone whose skill and unique passion as a storyteller are illuminated by sharp insight into the way that ideas shape our world and our future," said Ann Mossop, director of UNSW Centre for Ideas. 

While tickets have already sold out, Atwood will no doubt continue to shape discussions and discourse. For further information, check out