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The Handmaid’s Tale reissue illustrations by Anna and Elena Balbusso are “beacons to a new generation”

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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.

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Anna and Elena Balbusso: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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Anna and Elena Balbusso: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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Anna and Elena Balbusso: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

List Work / Illustration Costa Rican illustrator Adrian Mangel draws the modern American landscape

24-year-old illustrator Adrian Mangel lives in New York — where he studied at Parsons — but he grew up in Costa Rica. “Being born and raised in Costa Rica definitely influenced the way I consume images,” Adrian tells us. “For a country that doesn’t have a very solid pre-Columbian culture, the influence of American culture is very strong. In a way this gave me a free pass to appropriate images that aren’t necessarily from here, but are relevant (or present) across cultural borders. Experiences of daily life, popular culture, sports, politics, are all things that are present in the lives of people around the globe and this makes them worth exploring. This is mostly how I chose my subject matter. Also, football is religion in Costa Rica, so that always manages to creep back into my work somehow.”

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