Margaret Atwood has long been a literary titan, but “current events have polished the oracular sheen of her reputation” (The New Yorker). With her 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale adapted into an eleven-time Emmy Award-winning television series, and it’s sequel, The Testaments, winning the 2019 Booker Prize, Atwood’s sharp eye is more crucial—and prescient—than ever.
“With dry, ironic wit, a poetic sensibility and more than a hint of the Gothic, she has uncompromisingly observed the psychology of people in her society.”— The New York Times
“Every totalitarian government on the planet has always taken a very great interest in women’s reproductive rights,” says Margaret Atwood; a disquieting insight at any time, but particularly in today’s portentous political landscape. Just as it did when it was published, the story of The Handmaid’s Tale—a future where women’s reproductive rights are governed by a conservative (and patriarchal) administration—is unearthing chilling patterns to an uneasy public. Atwood’s newest novel and sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments, has performed so well, it broke the record for best first-day sales of any Penguin Random House title in 2019. Having initially gone to press on the novel for 500,000 copies, the publisher has gone back twice already for more copies of The Testaments—in just over a week.
And with her work already producing two blockbuster television adaptations—first The Handmaid’s Tale, then Alias Grace—Atwood’s vision is reaching a wider audience than ever before. The Handmaid’s Tale received 13 Emmy nominations and eight awards—including for Best Drama. Atwood herself received a standing ovation. Alias Grace, now streaming on Netflix, is based on Atwood’s Giller-winning, Booker-shortlisted murder mystery, and is notable for being written, produced, and directed by women.
Atwood is the winner of many international literary awards, including the prestigious Booker Prize, Arthur C. Clarke Award, Governor General’s Award, the PEN Pinter Prize, the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Book Critics Circle, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In October 2019, she was presented with the Companion of Honor award—given for achievements in the arts, literature, science and politics—by Queen Elizabeth, making Atwood only the third Canadian to receive the honor.
She is the author of more than fifty volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction; perhaps best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman, The Robber Bride, The Blind Assassin, Oryx and Crake, and The Year of the Flood. Her non-fiction book Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, part of the Massey Lecture series, was made into a documentary. The Oryx and Crake trilogy is being adapted into an HBO TV series by celebrated filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. Her work has been published in more than 40 languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian. She co-invented the LongPen, a remote signing device that allows someone to write in ink anywhere in the world via tablet PC and the internet. She is a founder of ther Writers’ Trust of Canada and a founding trustee of the Griffin Poetry Prize. She is also a popular personality on Twitter, with over two million followers.
Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master’s degree from Radcliffe College.
“Margaret’s keynote set the stage for the subsequent panel discussions that followed in exactly the manner that we hoped would be possible. Her exploration of compassion was multi-layered, witty, and provocative, teasing with both the familiar and surprising ways that compassion shows up in the everyday. Her comments had broad appeal to the many nurses in the audience and to the general public as well. She was simply charming. Our planning team was wholly satisfied that Margaret was a fantastic choice for this event.”University of Calgary, Faculty of Nursing
An Evening with Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood can speak on a wide range of issues relating to literature, social activism, political engagement, the creative process, the artist’s role in society, technology and art, and, of course, her own accomplished body of work. Her pithy observations and witty comments enlighten and challenge audiences to think critically about our relationship to words and language. “The answers you get from literature,” she has said, “depend on the questions you pose.”