The Franz Kafka Prize

2017 - Margaret Atwood

Born: 18 November, 1939, Ontario, Canada

Author's quote: "In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt."

Field: Fiction

Prize share: 1/1

Books Written By Margaret Atwood

About Margaret Atwood

Margaret Eleanor Atwood, (born November 18, 1939) is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, inventor, and environmental activist. She has published seventeen books of poetry, sixteen novels, ten books of non-fiction, eight collections of short fiction, eight children’s books, and one graphic novel, as well as a number of small press editions in poetry and fiction. Atwood has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize five times, winning in 2000 for The Blind Assassin. She is a winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award, Prince of Asturias Award for Literature and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. She has been a finalist for the Governor General's Award 10 times, winning in 1966 for The Circle Game and 1985 for The Handmaid's Tale. In 2001, she was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame. Atwood is the 2016 recipient of The National Book Critics Circle’s Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2017 recipient of the PEN Center USA’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Among innumerable contributions to Canadian literature, Atwood was a founding trustee of the Griffin Poetry Prize, as well as a founder of the Writers' Trust of Canada, a non-profit literary organization that seeks to encourage Canada's writing community.

Atwood is also the inventor and developer of the LongPen and associated technologies that facilitate the remote robotic writing of documents. She is the Co-Founder and Director of Syngrafii Inc. (formerly Unotchit Inc.), a company that she started in 2004 to develop, produce and distribute the LongPen technology. She holds various patents related to the LongPen technologies.

As a novelist and poet, Atwood's works encompass a variety of themes including the power of language, gender and identity, religion and myth, climate change, and "power politics." Many of her poems are inspired by myths and fairy tales, which interested her from a very early age. Atwood has published short stories in Tamarack Review, Alphabet, Harper's, CBC Anthology, Ms., Saturday Night, and many other magazines.

Atwood was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, as the second of three children of Carl Edmund Atwood, an entomologist and Margaret Dorothy a former dietitian and nutritionist from Woodville, Nova Scotia. Because of her father’s ongoing research in forest entomology, Atwood spent much of her childhood in the backwoods of northern Quebec and travelling back and forth between Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, and Toronto. She did not attend school full-time until she was eight years old. She became a voracious reader of literature, Dell pocketbook mysteries, Grimm's Fairy Tales, Canadian animal stories and comic books. She attended Leaside High School in Leaside, Toronto, and graduated in 1957. Atwood began writing plays and poems at the age of six.

Atwood realized she wanted to write professionally when she was 16. In 1957, she began studying at Victoria College in the University of Toronto, where she published poems and articles in Acta Victoriana, the college literary journal. Her professors included Jay Macpherson and Northrop Frye. She graduated in 1961 with a Bachelor of Arts in English (honours) and minors in philosophy and French.

In late 1961, after winning the E. J. Pratt Medal for her privately printed book of poems, Double Persephone, she began graduate studies at Radcliffe College of Harvard University, with a Woodrow Wilson fellowship. She obtained a master's degree (MA) from Radcliffe in 1962 and pursued doctoral studies for two years, but did not finish her dissertation, "The English Metaphysical Romance".


The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood

By Moisio

This is a compelling story, perfectly executed. I read the book quickly and, at times, couldn't put it down. The narrative is twice framed, even if one of the frames is ambiguous. In the early-going, the context is set by a few newspaper clippings describing events pertaining to characters later revealed more fully. The rest of the book gradually answers the questions implicit in those events.

I am reluctant to touch on the plot at all because doing so could upset a reader's experience. Suffice it to say, the novel focuses on a portion of the lives of two Canadian sisters in the interwar period. A key driver is their gradually deteriorating financial circumstances.

Structurally, the novel is ambitious, and gives us the piecemeal composition of three different books, albeit sometimes obliquely. There is a mystery of sorts and the reveals occur only vaguely. The reader kind of realizes that he or she has known a crucial thing for some number of pages, and came to know it at exactly the appropriate time.

I haven't read the other books that were nominated for the Booker Prize in 2000 but that this won is not surprising. It is both complex and accessible, which is not an easy feat.


The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood

By Diane

I was recently stuck in the Toronto (hometown of Margaret Atwood!) airport for 9 hours, and holy cats was I glad to have a 500+ page book to pass the time waiting for my delayed flight. I nearly finished the whole thing, and it helped me keep my sanity. I recommend this entertaining literature as much as I DON'T recommend catching a connecting flight through Toronto Pearson until they get their s--- together.