Legendary novelist, poet, and essayist Margaret Atwood delivers a surprising look at the topic of “debt” — a subject that continues to be timely during this current period of economic upheaval. In her intelligent and imaginative approach to the subject, Atwood proposes that “debt” is like air — something we take for granted and never think about until things go wrong.
This is not a book about practical debt management or high finance, although it does touch upon those subjects. Rather, it goes far deeper into an investigation of debt as a very old, very central motif in religion, literature, and the structure of human societies. By looking at how debt has informed our thinking from preliterate times to the present day, through the stories we tell to our concepts of “revenge” and “sin” to the way we structure our social relationships, Atwood shows that this idea of what we owe — in other words, “debt” — is possibly built into the human imagination as one of its most dynamic metaphors. In the final section, Atwood touches upon not only our current global financial situation, but also the concept of our “debt to nature” and how our ideas of ownership and debt must be changed if we are to find a new way to interact with our natural environment before it is too late.