Blog Archive

Thursday, 14 June 2012


Write something about a place which is
frightening and/or degrading and/or dangerous.  It may be based on fantasy,
history,  or personal experience

from The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The heroine is a kind of sex slave, allocated to a well-to-do man, ‘the Commander’,  whose wife has become infertile, as have very many of the wives in the community, hence the new custom of ‘handmaids’ to prevent the society dying out.   There is an elaborate ceremony where the husband has sex with the handmaid, with the wife present, holding the handmaid too.

“This is not recreation, even for the Commander.  This is serious business.  The Commander, too, is doing his duty.
      If I were to open my eyes a slit, I would be able to see him, his not-unpleasant face handing over my torso, with a few strands of his silver hair falling perhaps over his forehead, intent on his inner journey, that place he is hurrying towards, which recedes as in a dream at the same speed with which he approaches it.  I should see his open eyes.
       If he were better looking would I enjoy this more?
       At least he’s an improvement on the previous one, who smelled like a church cloakroom in the rain;  like your mouth when  the dentist starts picking at your teeth;  like a nostril.   The Commander, instead, smells of mothballs, or is this odour some punitive form of aftershave?   What does he have to wear that stupid uniform?   But would I like his white, tufted raw  body any better? -           (p106,  Virago edition)

 Brian Keenan’s book,  An Evil Cradling


“For how long he rained his blows upon my head and face, I cannot remember.  So many things coursed through my mind;  perhaps that is how pain is obliterated.  At the end he stood up.  He seemed exhausted and tense.  He barked something to the guards and they bent down, trailed me from the cell, pulling me along the corridor.  They sat me on the low wall that ran down its middle.  I heard him shout orders or shout at me, I could not tell.  He came over to me and I knew I had to say something to keep face, to maintain identity.  He said something in Arabic, I knew he was speaking me.  I raised my head, unseeing, and simply said ‘You are a very brave man.’  He struck me hard on the head and walked off again snarling orders.  Two of the guards followed hurriedly after him and one stood with me.  His hand gentle on my shoulder.  He patted me.  (p 143, Vintage edition)

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