Wednesday, October 22, 2008


The 2008 Massey Lectures are under way. Margaret Atwood speaks about "Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth."

These are not lectures about how to get out of debt; rather, they're about the debtor/creditor twinship in the broadest sense — from human sacrifice to pawnshops to revenge. In this light, what we owe and how we pay is a feature of all human societies, and profoundly shapes our shared values and our cultures.

She presented part 4 of the series the other night here in Montreal. (When I first heard tell of it weeks ago, the event was already sold out.)

The lecture, titled The Shadow Side, [. . .] took on the subject of debt in the philosophical and literary sense, with references to Machiavelli, Charles Dickens and, most thoroughly of all, William Shakespeare. (You didn't have to be a seer to guess Shylock would show up somewhere. Her rigorous analysis of how anti-Semitism is rooted in historical concepts of debt was breathaking [sic].)

The lectures will be broadcast on CBC, November 10–14. Or you can read them.

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