Margaret Atwood's 'The Blind Assassin': Parts I through IV


"Why is it we want so badly to memorialize ourselves? Even while we're still alive? We wish to assert our existence, like dogs peeing on fire hydrants. We put on display our framed photographs, our parchment diplomas, our silver-plated cups; we monogram our linen, we carve our names on trees, we scrawl them on washroom walls. It's all the same impulse. What do we hope to get from it? Applause, envy, respect? Or simply attention, of any kind we can get?
At the very least we want a witness. We can't stand the idea of our own voices falling silent finally, like a radio running."

This paragraph seems to be a fairly good way to think about the opening quarter of The Blind Assassin, which is awash in not just a family history, but in documentation. We're reading Iris's first-hand, handwritten account of her current and past life, and of the life of her grandparents whom she never knew. There are photographs around town of her ancestors; notices and obituaries in newspaper clippings; Laura's novel; even the graffiti on walls which Iris seems to notice everywhere she goes.

The process of Iris writing her story, at a seemingly advanced age, seems to be grueling, painful, and slow, and yet, as the quote above (Iris's own words) seems to indicate, still a "worthwhile" pursuit.

Join us back here for the next part of The Blind Assassin.