22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa, Ontario, in 1939. Her father was an entomologist, so she spent much of her childhood in the forests of northern Quebec and in various other Canadian cities. She wanted to write professionally from the time she was a teenager. She began studying English in Toronto in 1957, earned a master’s degree at Harvard University’s Radcliffe College in 1962, then began her PhD. In addition to writing, Atwood has taught English at universities in Vancouver, Montreal, Alberta, and Toronto from 1964 onwards.

Atwood’s poems are often inspired by the fairy tales and myths that have fascinated her since childhood. Her first volume of poetry, »Double Persephone«, appeared in 1961 and won the E. J. Pratt Medal in Poetry; her most recent work, »Dearly«, appeared in 2020. In the same year, a collection of her poems from 1965 to 1995 was also published in German under the title »Die Füchsin«. Her first novel, »The Edible Woman« [1969], a social satire of North American consumerism, is an early example of feminist literature. Atwood became an important voice in Canadian literature in the 1970s.

Although Atwood has always had an aversion to genre labels, she has labeled her award-winning novel »The Handmaidʼs Tale« [1985] as speculative fiction. The book was also made into a film by Volker Schlöndorff in 1990 and has been a television program since 2017. The main themes in her works include myth, religion, gender identity, and the position of women in society. In both »The Robber Bride« [1993], which is set in present-day Toronto, as well as in the historical novel »Alias Grace« [1996], the focus is on female characters who break with the cliché of female kindness. One of her most important concerns beyond literature is environmental protection, for which she is also an activist.

Atwood’s tenth novel, »The Blind Assassin« [2000], which won the Booker Prize, tells the love story between a young woman from a well-to-do family and a young leftist who is on the run from the police. The first installation of her MaddAddam trilogy is the dystopian novel »Oryx and Crake« [2003], which deals with topics such as genetic manipulation, the power of the pharmaceutical industry, and man-made natural disasters. She has also written reinterpretations of classics such as »The Penelopiad« [2005], a retelling of the »Odyssey« from Penelope’s perspective, and »Hag-Seed« [2016], based on Shakespeare’s »The Tempest«. Atwood received another Booker Prize for the novel »The Testaments« [2019], a sequel to »The Handmaidʼs Tale«, which tells the life stories of three women against the backdrop of the decline of the fictional state of Gilead. Her most recent work, »Burning Questions« [2022], brings together essays from 2004 to 2021 by this »bold and fascinating thinker« [»Observer«].

Atwood has received numerous awards for her poetry, prose, non-fiction, and children’s books. She is also co-founder of the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Atwood Gibson Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Her works are available in over thirty languages. Atwood lives in Toronto.

Date: 2022