Louise Erdrich imagines a society where the ability of women to give birth becomes a political weapon

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In the wake of The Scarlet Maid, Louise Erdrich imagines in The child of the next dawn a society in which women’s bodies no longer belong to them.

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In the wake of The Scarlet Handmaid, Louise Erdrich imagines in The Child of the Next Dawn a society in which women's bodies no longer belong to them.

© Hilary Abe

In the wake of The Scarlet Maid, Louise Erdrich imagines in The child of the next dawn a society in which women’s bodies no longer belong to them.


“I remember now I was there, the last time it snowed in Heaven.” In the diary she is writing for her unborn child, Cedar Hawk Songmaker remembers a world that had not yet reached its point of no return and is now akin to a lost paradise. Winter no longer exists, the summers are scorching and the animals seem to have given up on reproducing. In order to preserve the survival of mankind, the US federal government requires pregnant women to join hospitals reserved for them – prisons, it is rumored, where mothers are separated from the birth of their babies.

Refusing to submit, Cedar takes refuge in a bungalow on the edge of the forest, at the bottom of a forgotten dead end, and writes for his child this “investigation into the heart of the strangeness of things” without knowing if it will ever be for him. possible to read it. His Ojibway ancestors and their descendants come to life under his pen, owners of a Superpumper gas station, “first stop before the Indian casino”, among whom grandmother Virginia, his favorite, who “may have lived the final flourishing of human culture and thought “before the general collapse. “With you everything can start again, and everything needs to start again,” Cedar confides in this child who has become his only hope, his only reason to hold out against the disintegration of the world that was familiar to him.

The resilience of a heroine ready for anything

Readers of Margaret Atwood and her Scarlet maid will recognize in The Child of the Next Dawn the same talent for imagining a society so far away and so close to ours, and stories taking the form of warnings. The story oscillates between the dread of the Orwellian fable, the violence of a dystopia where women’s bodies and their ability to give life become political weapons, and the resilience of a heroine desperate to save the life of her child. “I have the feeling that, more than the past, it is now the future that haunts us,” she writes. Enough to challenge, in times of a global pandemic, the boundaries between fiction and reality.

The child of the next dawn, Louise Erdrich, translated from English (United States) by Isabelle Reinharez, Albin Michel, 416 pages, 22.90 euros.

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