Margaret Atwood

Canada

Writer

Guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Programme 1984

Margaret Atwood DAAD


Margaret Atwood is one of the world's best-known feminist authors and a figurehead of Canadian literature. Her work is shaped by the social role of women, as well as discussion and debate on climate change and environmental destruction.

Telling stories is a skill that contributed to the survival of thousands of generations even before the beginning of our historiography.
Margaret Atwood

Born in 1939, the author achieved her first major international success with her novel The Handmaid's Tale (1985), which was filmed by Volker Schlöndorff under the German title Die Geschichte der Dienerin and presented at the 1990 Berlinale. She has since published more than 50 books – volumes of poetry, short stories, essays, novels and children's books – in over 20 languages. Her works have landed among the bestsellers in Germany as well. In 2015, Atwood was the first author to contribute a book manuscript to the Future Library art project. The work – entitled Scribble Moon – will be kept in Oslo and will not be published until 2114.

In 1984, she went to the still divided city as a Guest of the DAAD's Artists-in-Berlin Programme' for a year. That's where she wrote the beginning of The Handmaid's Tale. Since then, she has been closely attached to Germany. The City of Dortmund awarded her the Nelly Sachs Prize for her oeuvre in spring 2010.

The daughter of an entomologist, Atwood grew up in the Canadian prairie. This meant the family had to spend several months a year without any electricity or running water. The time there shaped the author and her childhood experiences found their way into several of her works – for example, an apocalyptic trilogy, the final volume of which appeared in 2014 under the title Maddaddam.

After reading English and literature at Toronto and Harvard, she taught literary studies at various universities in Canada and the United States. Parallel to this, she published her first books. In an interview with the newspaper Der Westen in 2010, Margaret Atwood said: "Telling stories is a skill that contributed to the survival of thousands of generations even before the beginning of our historiography."

Margaret Atwood’s main concern today is with the environment and nature. "I become absolutely politically active when environmental concerns are at stake – something that is close to the heart of a typical Canadian, so to speak," said Margaret Atwood in an interview with the Wiener Zeitung. Just how seriously she takes the issue, she explained in an interview with the newspaper taz in 2014: “In reality, Earth has a chance if humanity changes its ways. If not, the chances are very slim. That’s not something I’m making up.”

Margaret Atwood has received several honorary doctorates as well as a number of prestigious national and international awards, including the foremost literary prizes conferred by Canada and the United Kingdom – the Governor General's Award and the Booker Prize – as well as Spain’s Prince of Asturias Award.