We have had the pushback, and now we are going to have the push again. Unlike many writers, Atwood does not require a particular desk, arranged in a particular way, before she can work. She is equally uninhibited about genre. She is offhanded about her versatility. Atwood travels frequently, and has often spent months at a time living in foreign countries, sometimes under conditions that a less flexible artist might find impossibly distracting.
Orwell was on her mind. She spent a winter in the remote English village of Blakeney, in Norfolk, where her only means of calling North America was a telephone kiosk that was usually used for storing potatoes, and where the stone-floored cottage in which she wrote was so cold that she developed chilblains on her toes. When her daughter, Jess, who was born in , was eighteen months old, Atwood and her partner, the novelist Graeme Gibson, made a round-the-world trip.
After winding through Europe, they visited Afghanistan—a keen student of military history, Atwood wanted to see the terrain where the British had been defeated—as well as India and Singapore. They made do with carry-on luggage the whole way. Home is a mansion in the Annex neighborhood of Toronto, near the university.
Sometimes she drags a heavy shopping cart, loaded with books, for donation to the local library. Atwood is enormously well read, and is an evangelist for books she admires, especially by young writers. The book earned Atwood her third of five Booker Prize nominations. Atwood is warmly recognized in Toronto, whether she is on the street, in a restaurant, or in the subway. She once slipped me one of her senior-citizen tickets, with a sly arch of the eyebrow.
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Traffic cops nod to her in crosswalks, and every encounter I had with her was interrupted by a supplicant autograph hunter or selfie seeker. She never declined. Atwood speaks in a low, ironical monotone but adopts a querulous squeak when impersonating imagined detractors. She would look striking even if she were not familiar. She owns an array of brightly colored winter coats—jewel red, imperial purple—with faux-fur-trimmed hoods that frame her face, as do her abundant curls of silver hair.
She has high cheekbones and an aquiline nose, the kind of features that age has a hard time withering. Her skin is clear and translucent, of the sort that writers of popular Victorian fiction associated with good moral character. There were stories of abortion and contraception being outlawed in Romania, and reports from Canada lamenting its falling birth rate, and articles from the U. There were reports about the threat to privacy posed by debit cards, which were a novelty at the time, and accounts of U.
The ritualized procreation in the novel—effectively, state-sanctioned rape—is extrapolated from the Bible. No kidding. It is right there in the text. A decade ago, the book was banned from high schools in San Antonio , Texas, on the ground that it was anti-Christian and excessively explicit about sex.
While living in West Berlin, Atwood visited Poland, where martial law had only recently been lifted; many dissidents were still in jail. She already knew members of the Polish resistance from the Second World War, who had gone into exile in Canada. It scares me. But I have to write it. Her friend the novelist Valerie Martin was the first to read the finished manuscript; they were both teaching in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Margaret Atwood, the Prophet of Dystopia
Still, the U. President Trump is not an adherent of traditional family values; he is a serial divorcer. He is not known to be a man of religious faith; his Sundays are spent on the golf course. Even when those who survived the accusations levelled against them were later exonerated, only meagre reparations were made. Now, Atwood argues, women have been put on notice that hard-won rights may be only provisional. Absolutely they want to overturn Roe v.
Wade, and they will have to deal with the consequences if they do. A lot more dead women, a lot more illegal abortions, a lot more families with children in them left without a mother. Atwood was born in Ottawa, but she spent formative stretches of her early years in the wilderness—first in northern Quebec, and then north of Lake Superior. Her father, Carl Atwood, was an entomologist, and, until Atwood was almost out of elementary school, the family passed all but the coldest months in virtually complete isolation at insect-research stations; at one point, they lived in a log cabin that her father had helped construct.
Her mother, also named Margaret—among her intimates, the novelist goes by Peggy—was a dietitian. In the months in the woods, she secured workbooks from school for Atwood and her brother, Harold, who is three years her senior. In inclement weather, the children amused themselves by making comic books and by reading.
Her father had grown up poor, in rural Nova Scotia. They sledded across a still frozen lake at the start of the season, and canoed across it during the summer months. When the paddles hit bottom on the way across, gas bubbles from decomposing vegetation rose and burst with a stench of rotten eggs or farts. The family still retreats there in the summer. Three years later, another daughter, Ruth, was born. Atwood started writing in earnest in high school.
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Her parents, who lived through the Depression, were encouraging but practical. A neurophysiologist, Harold Atwood is a professor emeritus in the department of physiology. Atwood enrolled in the philosophy department, but after discovering that logical positivism was its mainstay, rather than ethics and aesthetics, she switched to literature. Canadian literature had yet to be considered worthy of study. She never finished it. Atwood had embarked on an academic career not for the love of teaching or scholarship but because making a living as a writer seemed an implausible aspiration.
Atwood started her career as a poet. They divorced in In the sometimes divisive years of second-wave feminism, Atwood reserved the right to remain nonaligned. You should be able to wear them without people saying you are a traitor to your sex. But this wariness reflects her bent toward precision, and a scientific sensibility that was ingrained from childhood: Atwood wants the terms defined before she will state her position.
This capacity for quizzical scrutiny underlies much of her fiction: not accepting the world as it is permits Atwood to imagine the world as it might be. Atwood and Gibson, who met in Toronto publishing circles, spent the seventies living on a farm outside the city.
The title story details the less picturesque aspects of country life. At one point, the Atwoods are given control of the camera, and conduct a strange pantomime in which Atwood sits with a brown paper bag over her head while other family members offer sentence-long characterizations of her. Some of her most perceptive readers have taken this approach. Like her Victorian forebears, Atwood does not shy away from the idea that the novel is a place to explore questions of morality. A perennial problem.
One morning, while we were walking in her neighborhood, Atwood bumped into an old friend, Adrienne Clarkson, a college contemporary who went on to have a distinguished career as a broadcaster, and, for six years, as the governor general of Canada. The women reminisced about studying with Northrop Frye. Not long ago, a history society at the University of Toronto, which was compiling a video archive of notable alumni, asked to interview Atwood about her college days.
They had a daughter in , and she helped raise Gibson's two sons from his previous marriage. Atwood has lived in Canada for the majority of her life, but during the s, she spent some time in Germany, England, and France.
Margaret Atwood, the Prophet of Dystopia
She currently resides in Toronto. Atwood has also held positions as an English lecturer or writer-in-residence at various universities. Atwood is known for both the quality and the quantity of her writing. She has published novels, shorts stories, poems, and works of literary criticism. This work was published in , at a time when most people did not think there was such a thing as Canadian literature.
Atwood is credited with drawing heightened attention to Canadian writers, but Atwood suggests that the creation of new presses, many of them run by writers themselves, was one of the most important factors in the sudden proliferation of Canadian writers. Atwood's identity as a Canadian author has always been very important to her, and she has achieved tremendous success in spite of the serious handicap presented by her desire to be known as a Canadian writer.
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Atwood has repeatedly reinvented herself over the course of her career. She has written science fiction, speculative fiction, historical fiction, and realistic fiction. Science is usually an important theme in her books, and Atwood agrees that having a father who was a scientist played an important role in her interest in exploring this field. She is quick to point out that despite the negative role science plays in many of her books, she is far from a Luddite.
In many interviews, she has emphasized that science is a tool that can be used for remarkable good or remarkable evil. Perhaps Atwood's most famous work is Surfacing , which tells the story of a girl who returns to her childhood home of Quebec to search for her missing father, a botanist who has disappeared in the woods. Atwood's anti-heroine is a woman named Zenia, a sexual predator who wreaks havoc on the lives of three friends.
Alias Grace was Atwood's first work of historical fiction, inspired by a newspaper article that Atwood read about a woman who had been convicted of murder but claimed to have no memory of the crime. Atwood won a Booker Prize for The Blind Assassin in , and in , she published Oryx and Crake , one of her most intriguing explorations of the power of science.
Margaret Atwood Biography | List of Works, Study Guides & Essays | GradeSaver
To satisfy the numerous requests of readers, Atwood wrote a follow-up to Oryx and Crake, which was published in Titled The Year of the Flood , the book revives some of the minor characters of Oryx and Crake and follows their trajectories. In particular, the story of the fundamentalist group God's Gardeners is traced during and after the apocalyptic events chronicled in Oryx and Crake.
Readers of Oryx and Crake may be interested in reading more about Atwood's dystopic world in this new novel. Atwood has spoken and written prolifically on the art of writing and on being a writer. Her books often engage with the power of language and the necessity of storytelling and conveying one's point of view through writing or speaking. Atwood is also a feminist writer, and when she first became well known in the s, she was considered a role model and groundbreaker not just for Canadian writers, but for female writers as well.
Atwood not only spoke about issues of gender in the world of publishing, she also wrote about many of the issues of concern to feminists from the '70s up to today. Atwood has always commanded a great deal of respect, and one of the explanations for the attention she has received is her insistence on depicting issues of gender, science, power, and truth in all of their complexity.
Atwood was born in Ottawa and was raised there. The setting of the story is in Canada, where the story centers on three main characters: Iris, Laura,
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