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'Unburnable' copy of Handmaid's Tale auctioned for $130,000

Proceeds will be donated to PEN America, which advocates for free expression worldwide.

WASHINGTON — A specially commissioned, unburnable edition of Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" has been auctioned for $130,000, Sotheby's announced Tuesday.

Proceeds will be donated to PEN America, which advocates for free expression worldwide. The 384-page book consists mainly of Cinefoil, a specially treated aluminum product, and was announced last month at PEN's annual fundraising gala. 

To help promote the initiative, Atwood agreed to be filmed attempting — unsuccessfully — to incinerate a prototype with a flame thrower.

"I'm very pleased that the one-of-a-kind Unburnable Book of 'The Handmaid's Tale' has raised so much money for PEN America," the Canadian author said in a statement. "Free speech issues are being hotly debated, and PEN is a sane voice amidst all the shouting. The video of the book being torched by me and refusing to burn has now had a potential 5 billion views. We hope it raises awareness and leads to reasoned discussion."

The fireproof book was a joint project by PEN, Atwood, Penguin Random House and two companies based in Toronto, where Atwood is a longtime resident: the Rethink creative agency and The Gas Company Inc., a graphic arts and bookbinding specialty studio. 

"The Handmaid's Tale," a million seller first released in 1985, is a Dystopian novel about a cruel patriarchy known as the Republic of Gilead. It has been subject to various bannings since publication.

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