Letter to June. Unknown Address.

Université de Montréal
28 janvier 2020

ATWOOD, Margaret. The Testaments. Toronto: Penguin Random House Canada, McClelland & Stewart, 2019.

Dear June,

I hope the weather is treating you well – no matter where you are now. It is getting quite cold here. Actually, the temperatures are constantly changing and I wonder if winter will last. But I’m sure it will. Gilead didn’t. Or so it seemed.

Margaret left us with you being taken away by some Eyes as an exit arranged by your friend, Nick. But we didn’t know at that time if you would get killed, be sent to the Colonies after having your child, or be taken to a special Clinic for pregnant Handmaids. And the both of you just disappeared. I’m pretty sure you’re not pondering over the fact that that was quite an end!

Margaret remained silent for over three decades. But have you seen?


Did you see? Margaret decided to organize a “Symposium on Gileadean Studies” (Atwood, 2019: 407). Coffee, tea, snacks, and talks. It came unexpectedly when I thought it was over. I waited almost 400 pages to be able to finally breathe again. And I found myself into this room, observing with quite curious eyes this man, a certain Pieixoto, who, right from the beginning, explained to us how “[he] will attempt not to []offend” with “[his] little jokes” (Ibid.: 408). You got my point, right? I listened carefully to his talk and I could learn more about the Gileadean Studies. Still, I don’t like him. It’s probably because I witnessed your time, Agnes’s, Becka’s, and Daisy’s time, and his time. The participants laughed, sometimes moderately, sometimes cheerfully.

Did you? Reducing you to some tapes is quite awful and awkward. Questioning the transcripts of witness testimony 369A and 369B is quite dubious and disturbing. It’s like posing a frame around Gilead. Nevertheless, he’s doing his job: history is always a perspective. I wanted to raise my hand after his talk. But, as he was a keynote speaker, I didn’t know how he would have reacted if I had told him: Guess what, I know June – I mean, Offred.

Margaret remained silent for over three decades. But have you seen?


Did you see? Margaret continues embroidering. Such an artist. She presents us a beautiful piece of work, made with chain stitches, composed with a brownish color brilliantly crossed with red, blue, green, grey, and black. If you look closely enough, you might see some prescribed colors, in the form of tiny dots mixed with the main colors. This typical work of Wives and Daughters reaches another level with Margaret. We can’t say that she doesn’t have imagination. If Aunt Vidala only knew! “Forbidden things are open to the imagination. That was why Eve ate the Apple of Knowledge, said Aunt Vidala: too much imagination. So it was better not to know some things.” (Ibid.: 15) I’m glad Margaret ate this Apple and spun all these colors. It’s a complex work, with many layers. Although the chain stitch is preponderant, she added some cross-stitches in an inseam which is linked to the little dots. I thus focussed on that.

Did you? Evoking you here and there is quite risky and remarkable. Leaving you with some textual space at some point is quite freaky and fascinating. Truly speaking, I didn’t except you coming. I thought you were still caught in Gilead, on a TV show, you know, the one about you. Maybe I should write her a letter and tell her: Guess what, I know where June, and not Offred, is/was!

Margaret remained silent for over three decades. But have you seen?


Did you see? Margaret resuscitated an old persona, who incorporates at most her idea of showing that all is not just pitch black or bright white. Perhaps, that’s the reason behind her brownish clothes: draped in some luxurious, yet sober stone. “[Her] statue is larger than life, as statues tend to be, and shows [her] as younger, slimmer, and in better shape than [she’s] been for some time. [She is] standing straight, shoulders back, [her] lips curved into a firm but benevolent smile. [Her] eyes are fixed in some cosmic point of reference understood to represent [her] idealism, [her] unflinching commitment to duty, [her] determination to move forward despite all obstacles.” (Ibid.: 3) I needed some time to understand. But, I guess, you didn’t need that time, June. You have known “A.L.” (Ibid.: 415) better than all of us. She’s terrific, strict, and brave. Yes, I said that.

Or did you? Using “May day” and “June moon” (Ibid.: 355) as passwords is haunting and hilarious. Crushing everything she built is desperate and dashing. Quitting with style and style! She did her job, too. And what remains is ruined, is ruins: “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.” (Ibid.: 181) Stones covered with blood and moss. June, tell me, when one might think it’s all about Agnes, Becka, and Daisy, one could also state it’s actually about her and what she represents.

Margaret remained silent for over three decades. But have you seen?

So, June, I began to think: “This is a reconstruction. All of it is a reconstruction.” (Atwood 2010 [1985]: 144) Interesting how we try to convey something through the deconstruction of a system. Margaret will probably stop now: she already put an end to it. But you are still out there. A figure of oppression and resistance.

I hope my letter will find its way to you. I can’t wait to read your impressions of these Testaments. Please don’t do as Margaret did: take your time if needed, but leave the three decades to Margaret.

Oh, I just remembered: did I tell you I saw Becka the other day? I will leave this for another letter.

Take care,