The Blind Assassin: Atwood’s Canadian Matryoshka

Soviet MatryoshkasThe best thing I remember about Margaret Atwood’s Booker Prize-winning novel The Blind Assassin, a book I recently read, is how its structure is likened to that of a set of Russian Matryoshkas in which dolls of decreasing sizes are hidden one inside the other.

The entire novel is supposed to be the memoir of Iris Chase, eighty two and dying, who chronicles her life in Port Ticonderoga and Toronto, Canada. Iris particularly focuses on tracing the events surrounding her sister Laura Chase’s mysterious and tragic death at twenty five. Intertwined within this narrative are newspaper clippings and passages from a novel which is also titled The Blind Assassin. Published under Laura Chase’s name, this novel-within-the-novel narrates a wealthy woman’s secret love affair with a communist organizer who is hunted by the state. It is in this narrative that the two anonymous lovers come up with an unfinished science fiction novel: the novel-within-the-novel-within-the-novel. All in all, Atwood’s The Blind Assassin a thrilling and enjoyably deceptive book to read. ■

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