the blind assassin is clever, but not in the way those familiar with margaret atwood’s poetic timbre might at first think. with immaculate, painstaking precision, atwood amortizes the story of iris chase griffen. iris is an ex-society wife crumbling away in near-urban canada, whose story is revealed through the canny use of interstitial literature.
because of their thorough nature, the weight of their wend, the ostensibly amateur scribblings of iris griffen are well in need of the respite offered by the interspersed portions of newspaper chatter and a ‘novel’. this fictional novel, authored by iris’ heterodox sister laura chase, is the ‘real’ the blind assassin. the difference between the author’s dessicated present and the parenthetical past suspends in its solution an apposite bathos, the figuring of the space between and within the self. atwood marks well the severe consequences of such disaccord. the prettiness of atwood’s elderly narrator’s language, and her self-imposed task of remembering the histories of others is conveyed at length, and can sag. in contrast, the immediacy and creativity of the pages attributed to laura are robust; they rise as if still breathing when exhumed from a mausoleum wrought grey with time.
the waves, the characteristic constant cursive ‘w’ of the novel’s narrative force is effective, but wearying. an effect of this, likely intended, is the incomplete sketching of the various characters. from the numinous laura to the chases’ strangled father, norval, iris’ flawed gaze construes the players in bemused monochrome, much like the bizarre photograph tints favoured by the young laura. the passive subjects of these portraits are realised most intensely in their effects on iris, the repository of their collective folly, pride, betrayal and love.
(an aside: i’ve always admired how validating it is to win a booker prize. it gets plastered on everything you ever do. perhaps you’ll write a little paragraph for your old school paper. or you’ll write a bad book. forever you will be ‘booker prize winner’ X. even if you kill or rape someone, although perhaps not for certain after that.)