Many have noted that the Claire Danes-narrated, special-edition Audible version of The Handmaid’s Tale released Tuesday included a bit of an extension from author Margaret Atwood. The audio book featured, as the Guardian put it, “A new ending, teasing a future for the characters beyond their original limit.” Which sounds akin to saying, “Teasing a sequel.”
The new passage has updated Professor Pieixoto’s set-in-the-future lecture that closes the novel. After he gives a history lesson — sourced from found tapes courtesy of the protagonist, Offred — he asks, as he does in the original, “Are there any questions?” In the pre-Tuesday version, that line ended the book; the Audible version, however, tacks on a series of questions and answers between students and the professor.
One student asks whether any other materials have been found that provide further information about the decline of the totalitarian, misogynist theocracy of the Republic of Gilead. The professor responds, “We have indeed made some fresh discoveries but not yet at liberty to share them,” which Canadian entertainment site The Loop points out wouldn’t be anything to get too excited about — if he didn’t add, “I hope to be able to present the results of our further Gileadian investigations to you at some future date.”
The Hollywood Reporter notes that the new passage extends the audio book by 14 minutes, and that Atwood’s own voice sneaks in there, as one of the attendees questioning Pieixoto. The Loop found this all so noteworthy that writer Amber Dowling asked Atwood herself whether it had a deeper meaning. The author replied:
I am in consultation with the Professor, but he is being very cagey about this. He evidently doesn’t want to make any promises before he has finished authenticating his new discoveries.
The professor character says in the recording, “Give us a year or two and I hope you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
In the meantime, whether there’s suddenly a Handmaid’s Tale sequel in a year or two or never, there is, of course, the Hulu series starring Elisabeth Moss, premiering April 26, to tide everyone over until this new book does or doesn’t happen. And, of course, once that’s over there’s the America around us to continue whatever dystopian novel you may choose to compare it to.