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Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth [Kindle Edition]

Margaret Atwood
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In this wide-ranging history of debt Margaret Atwood investigates its many meanings through the ages, from ancient times to the current global financial meltdown. Many of us wonder: how could we have let such a collapse happen? How old or inevitable is this human pattern of debt?

Imaginative, topical and insightful, Payback urges us to reconsider our ideas of ownership and debt - before it is too late.

Product Description


'A fascinating, freewheeling examination of ideas of debt, balance and revenge in history, society and literature - Atwood has again struck upon our most current anxieties' The Times 'A stimulating, learned, and stylish read from an eminent author writing from a heartfelt perspective ... very provocative' Conrad Black 'Could hardly be more timely ... as clear a summary of the situation as I have read' Financial Times 'Lively and exceedingly timely ... At a time when so many of us are mired in debts of the financial variety it is worth remembering that it is the other, non-financial debts that we owe - to the planet, and to each other - that may prove most important' Observer


`With this...lively and exceedingly timely book, Margaret Atwood has written what might be described as an intellectual history of debt ...'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1996 KB
  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks; 1 edition (1 Aug. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008NA17CY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #81,406 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Margaret Atwood is the author of more than thirty books of fiction, poetry and critical essays.

In addition to the classic The Handmaid's Tale, her novels include Cat's Eye, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy, The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize and Oryx and Crake, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood, was published in 2009. She was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature in 2008.

Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto, Canada.

(Photo credit: George Whitside)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A jewel of a book 25 Oct. 2008
This little book, as attractive in its format as in its verbal felicity, is based on a series of lectures about debt. They must have been memorable. It is not about the credit crunch - although the book's publication is timely - but about the imaginary constructions underlying concepts of indebtedness in the widest sense. Using folklore, religion, ancient history, literature, computer simulations and experiments in animal behaviour, Atwood shows that a sense that there should be balance and fairness in relations between debtors and creditors lies deep in the human psyche and that when this is absent, things turn nasty. This applies even among the higher animals, as shown by a fascinating experiment in which monkeys were taught to trade stones for bananas. She concludes with an examination of the `debt to nature', arguing that mankind cannot go on taking rather than giving, without destroying the Earth on which it depends, the point being illustrated with a chilling modern version of Dicken's A Christmas Carol.
Atwood makes the most serious points in a way that is engaging to read, constantly throwing new light on familiar things - from The Merchant of Venice to the meaning of `publicans' and `trespasses' in the New Testament. Once started, the book is hard to put down. It would make salutary reading for economists, politicians and City folk.
Graham Hallett
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life and Debt 3 Jun. 2012
By takingadayoff TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
What could be more timely, in these economically unstable days, than a discussion about debt?

The essays in Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth were presented as a series of radio lectures in Canada in November 2008. While I often enjoy the non-fiction writings of writers who are more famous for their novels (Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, Stephen King, among others), such collections are usually on a variety of topics or on a fiction-related topic such as writing. In Margaret Atwood's case though, she has taken on the subject of debt, although not exclusively financial debt.

Starting with a history of debt that is sprinkled with childhood memories of Scrooge McDuck and her first bank account, she examines the morality of owing other people. Using examples from literature and from nature, Atwood explores the universality of the concept of fairness. When capuchin monkeys realize that when one of their group is being rewarded with juicy grapes while the rest of them are being rewarded for the same work with lesser treats, they know it's a rotten deal and they rebel.

Atwood looks at how changing attitudes toward debt have affected the way we look at debt in literature. In Shakespeare's A Merchant of Venice, for example, Shylock is a moneylender, which is a necessary, but not very respectable profession. Until the recent fiascos, banking was one of the most respected professions, which of course, is mainly moneylending.

Debt isn't just about money. Atwood explores the concept of forgiveness, such as when Nelson Mandela was finally released from prison and knew he had to forgive those who'd persecuted him over the years and he had to do it before he walked out of the prison grounds. Otherwise he would carry those resentments with him forever.
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5.0 out of 5 stars We are all in her debt 12 Dec. 2014
Serious yet playful collection of discrete essays, based on Canada's version of the Reith Lectures, which Atwood gave in 2008; her timing was impeccable
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5.0 out of 5 stars read this 28 Mar. 2015
By sally
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
this is a fantastic book that really makes you think, I have to buy another copy to facilitate more lending to friends!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Guaranteed Return on investment 30 Dec. 2009
Very, Very, Very good.
Atwood takes you through the history, the mythology, the religion and reasons for the whole economic breakdown we are currently experiencing. The fact that it has happened so many times before, with terrible outcomes - maybe known to the reader, but the parallels in her writing are spot on.
The book led my wife and I to discuss the thoughts and theories over and over.
Even the beautifully presented, pocketsized binding makes this to a pleasure to hold, if not necessarily to read.
Five Stars, and I will be buying copies as gifts for a long time to come.
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