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House of Anansi Press

Payback

Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth

Written by Margaret Atwood

Published September 03, 2019 | ISBN 9781487006976
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Economic History

Cover of Payback

Regular price $19.95 CAD

248 pages | 8 in × 5 in
Print Format

Also Available as an Ebook

About this book

Payback

Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth

Margaret Atwood

Legendary novelist, poet, and essayist Margaret Atwood delivers a surprising look at the topic of “debt” — a subject that continues to be timely during this current period of economic upheaval. In her intelligent and imaginative approach to the subject, Atwood proposes that “debt” is like air — something we take for granted and never think about until things go wrong.

This is not a book about practical debt management or high finance, although it does touch upon those subjects. Rather, it goes far deeper into an investigation of debt as a very old, very central motif in religion, literature, and the structure of human societies. By looking at how debt has informed our thinking from preliterate times to the present day, through the stories we tell to our concepts of “revenge” and “sin” to the way we structure our social relationships, Atwood shows that this idea of what we owe — in other words, “debt” — is possibly built into the human imagination as one of its most dynamic metaphors. In the final section, Atwood touches upon not only our current global financial situation, but also the concept of our “debt to nature” and how our ideas of ownership and debt must be changed if we are to find a new way to interact with our natural environment before it is too late.

About the Author

Margaret Atwood

MARGARET ATWOOD, whose work has been published in more than forty-five countries, is the author of more than fifty books of fiction, poetry, critical essays, and graphic novels. Her latest novel, The Testaments, is the long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, now an award-winning TV series. Her other works of fiction include Cat’s Eye, finalist for the 1989 Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; The MaddAddam Trilogy; and Hag-Seed. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, the Franz Kafka International Literary Prize, the PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Los Angeles Times Innovator’s Award. She lives in Toronto with the writer Graeme Gibson.

Awards and Praise

PRAISE FOR MARGARET ATWOOD AND PAYBACK

“A fascinating, freewheeling examination of ideas of debt, balance and revenge in history, society, and literature — Atwood has again struck upon our most current anxieties.” — Times of London

“An extraordinarily vibrant Massey Lecture on debt, how it plays a motor force in much literature, in our own lives, and in the machinations of the crowd we elect to govern us.” — Maclean’s

“Witty, acutely argued, and almost freakishly prescient . . . as amusing as it is unsettling.” — Chicago Tribune

“These pieces offer a panoramic look at how the concept of debt acts as a fundamental human bond and — when obligations go unfulfilled, when ledgers are left unbalanced — how it can threaten to tear societies apart.” — Georgia Straight

“A celebrated novelist, poet, and critic, Atwood has combined rigorous analysis, wide-ranging erudition, and a beguilingly playful imagination to produce the most probing and thought-stirring commentary on the financial crisis to date.” — John Gray, New York Review of Books

“Atwood’s book is a weird but wonderful melange of personal reminiscences, literary walkabout, moral preachment, timely political argument, economic history, and theological query, all bound together with wry wit and careful though casual-seeming research.” — Publishers Weekly

“In Payback, Atwood freely mixes autobiography, literary criticism, and anthropology in an examination of debt as a concept deeply rooted in human — and even, in some cases, animal — behaviour . . . Building an argument that abounds with literary examples . . . Atwood entertainingly and often wryly advances the familiar thesis that what goes around comes around.” — Toronto Star

“Payback is a delightfully engaging, smart, funny, clever, and terrifying analysis of the role debt plays in our culture, our consciousness, our economy, our ecology, and, if Atwood is right, our future.” — Washington Post

“[Payback is] a demonstration of Atwood’s ability to evoke in memorable detail our vanished cultural past, and to examine both past and present in the form of language. Writing in this mode, she’s never off her game.” — National Post

“Elegant and erudite . . . as one would expect from a novelist of Ms. Atwood’s calibre, the phrasing is polished and the metaphors striking.” — Economist.com

“The evidence is in: Margaret Atwood simply sees more clearly than the rest of us.” — Quill & Quire

PRAISE FOR MARGARET ATWOOD AND SECOND WORDS

Second Words is an invaluable guide to understanding Atwood’s choice of themes, her basic principles, and the development of her work (and world view) ” — Books in Canada

“Certainly we want to know what one of our major writers feels about literature and people . . . And though she is . . . relaxed and conversational in these occasional pieces . . . there are so many good words, so much intelligence, that the garden-variety reviewer seethes with envy.” — Toronto Star

“What comes across mostly is [Atwood’s] critical generosity and her understanding that the art of writing inevitably turns the writer into a global politician; every novel offers a vision of the world. Through thick and thin, Atwood has been a passionate literary citizen.” — Maclean’s

“Second Words establishes critical patterns through which a provocative, original mind interprets the world. Thus it helps us to reassess all her work.” — Christian Science Monitor

PRAISE FOR MARGARET ATWOOD AND POWER POLITICS

“Margaret Atwood’s Power Politics is a true sequence, a death-struggle between man and woman . . . This book, to those who take it straight, moves almost unwillingly, but relentlessly, through a brilliant schema of unflagging suspense and pitches of drama . . . Atwood’s poems are short, glistening with terse bright images, un-tentative, closing like a vise. These are all formed perfections.” — New York Times (August 1973)

“Twenty-five years after its initial publication, Power Politics remains a path-breaking lyric utterance on sexual politics and human survival, unflinching in its emotional honesty. “Beyond truth,” Atwood writes, “tenacity” . . . and no poet has proven more prescient or more courageous in this pursuit. The reappearance of this work is an occasion to be celebrated.” — Carolyn Forché

“The pleasure of reading these poems today is not only in realizing the longevity of their power — the sting is still there — but in experiencing them anew in the light of the poetry and fiction written in the twenty-five years since.” — Linda Hutcheon

“In a century shaken by gender politics, these seminal poems remind us of the deepest kind of change. Love is the real power, demanding — and offering — no less than the transformation of self. Atwood dares to imagine realpolitik at the heart of love’s mystery. It is a measure of her achievement that, over decades, these masterful poems continue to speak with undiminished accuracy.” — Anne Michaels

“Astonishing, notorious, a classic — Power Politics, twenty-five years after its first publication, still negotiates with awesome presence of mind the definitions of heterosexual eros: hook and eye; fact and weapon; truth and brutality. Atwood’s terse, unsparing, and often comically incisive lines are a guided tour of the knotted Laingian underworld of a love affair. The poems are inspired and fluent. Read them and shiver.” — Sharon Thesen

“Brilliant precisionist and angry lover, Margaret Atwood performs an autopsy on a love affair that’s dead but won’t lie down. I feel again the thrill and shock I experienced on first reading these ruthless and moving poems. Power Politics changed the definition of the love poem, the long poem, and, I believe, the course of Canadian poetry. It cuts like a laser beam. It goes beyond sexual politics into the dark heart of a tottering global village.” — Phyllis Webb