How Margaret Atwood Became A Key Writer Of Our Time

How Margaret Atwood Became A Key Writer Of Our Time
How Margaret Atwood Became A Key Writer Of Our Time
Video: How Margaret Atwood Became A Key Writer Of Our Time
Video: How Margaret Atwood Writes Her Books 2023, February

This year at Margaret Atwood a new book "Testaments" was released - a continuation of the legendary dystopia "The Handmaid's Tale". Even before the start of sales, the book was shortlisted for the Booker Prize - and won, sharing the prize with the novel "Girl, Woman, Other" by British writer Bernardine Evaristo. We tell you why we love Margaret Atwood's work - regardless of the number of Bookers.

Text: Dina Klyucharyova, author of the telegram channel One Oscar For Leo


It has long been suspected that Atwood will receive the award. In the very first days after the release of "Testaments" there was a small scandal: the novelist Matthew Sperling noticed that the book was being sold with a sticker "Winner of the Booker Prize - 2019" and wrote on Twitter: "Guys, it seems you have pasted the stickers too early." The organizers of the award hastened to assure that they have nothing to do with these stickers, that the decision has not yet been made and the jury will finally choose the winner only on the day the results are announced. But the sediment remained, and the jury's decision to split the prize between two (the last time this happened in 1992, when the prize was received by Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth) raises logical questions.

However, Margaret Atwood, who turns eighty in November, is no longer afraid to disappoint her readers. Whether she has one more "Booker" (Atwood's novels were shortlisted six times, and she received the first prize in 2000 for "The Blind Killer") or not, the writer does not really care. She plans to send her cash prize (25 thousand British pounds) to the Indspire charity, which supports the indigenous people of Canada. “I’m not thirty-five years old, and it will not break my career,” she says in an interview. By the time the film adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale was released in 2017, she was already pondering the sequel of the book with might and main, not even suspecting what a sensation the series would make. Atwood began writing The Handmaid's Tale in 1984, when she lived briefly in West Berlin with her husband and daughter. The writer tapped out new chapters on a rented typewriter and could not imagine that one of the main feminist works of the century was coming out from under her keys.

Interestingly, Atwood herself eschews the status of a feminist. And although her solidarity with the modern view of the movement is easy to calculate from statements in the public field, the writer prefers to advocate "equality without labels." True, this approach naturally misfired more than once - an illustration of this was last year's scandal, when Atwood signed a letter in support of the fired University of British Columbia professor Stephen Galloway. Galloway was accused of sexual harassment, after which the university conducted a negligent investigation and stripped the writer of his post - without giving a clear word to either the victims or eyewitnesses. And those who signed in support of him received a waterfall of contemptuous remarks, since the letter expressed sympathy exclusively for Galloway and not in any way for the alleged victim or witnesses, whose careers also suffered due to the scandal. Atwood received her share of criticism for such a decision, after which she published a postscript apologizing for being insensitive to victims of violence - and then a whole essay "Am I the wrong feminist?" In it, she called for reforms in the legal system and an equal right to the benefit of the doubt.

Her role models were her mother, who rode a horse, swam in a canoe, fished, and drove away bears that weren't there with a mop, and Aunt Ada, a hunter and a talented shooter

“The #MeToo movement is a symptom of a broken justice system.Too often women, and in general anyone who complains about sexual harassment, is not given a voice in institutions - including corporate ones - so they use another tool: the Internet. Stars are falling from the sky. It is very effective and very sobering. But what's next? The justice system needs to be corrected, otherwise society should get rid of it altogether. Governments, corporations and offices can be cleaned up. Or wait for new stars to fall - or even asteroids,”Atwood wrote in an essay. Not to be unfounded, the writer supports AfterMeToo, a Canadian organization that helps build a network of support for survivors of sexual violence in the workplace.

In one of the interviews, she went even further, saying that she encourages "to listen to all women and take them seriously," but not to trust them all unconditionally. She mainly bases this position on the fear that sooner or later someone will turn to their own advantage the credit of trust that the #MeToo movement endows everyone who speaks out on the topic of harassment. The nihilism of the distinguished writer did not meet with approval: it seemed to many that she did not realize the full weight of her words, especially when it comes to supporting girls whose testimony is already discounted. It is really difficult to agree with such an approach: hypothetical thinking should not prevent the publicity of a real problem on a planetary scale.

It seems, however, that harsh and imprudent words were born out of a desire not to deprive those whose fate worries her most - women - of depth of character. “I firmly believe that women are living beings capable of a wide variety of behaviors, from holy to devilish, including criminal. They are not angels incapable of being wrong. " “I am sometimes asked - how long have I been writing 'The Handmaid's Tale'? - she continues in another interview - The answer is 4000 years, the entire segment of women's history. " Indeed, the writer's work speaks louder than a single essay.

Atwood doesn't care much about politics

but she is very worried about the state of the ocean - the writer is convinced that it is necessary to save it


Another label Atwood doesn't like is when her writings are called dystopias. The writer believes that what for some is the worst scenario for the development of an event, for others is a dream come true. In her novels, she tries to give a voice to people with different characters on different sides of the barricades - which is most clearly manifested in her last book, where her aunt Lydia becomes one of the storytellers. One of the most unpleasant heroines of The Handmaid's Tale in Testaments turns out to be not a devout believer in the new rule of law of the totalitarian state of Gilead, but an opportunist who is just waiting for the right moment to take revenge on everyone who offended her. Atwood does not take sides and simply explores a variety of characters - primarily women. Such is The Blind Assassin, a novel about sisters that brought her her first Booker. Another powerful work (alas, not yet translated into Russian) is Cat's Eye, a novel about an artist in search of her own identity, who is trying to overcome her childhood traumas and separate from family expectations.

Atwood chooses the subtle settings of interpersonal relations from the memories of his own childhood - by the way, quite extraordinary. Her early years fell on the troubled times of World War II. Margaret's father was a forest entomologist, so their family spent a lot of time in the wilderness, where dad was doing research, and the children were left to themselves, walking and reading Greek myths and "Robinson Crusoe". Margaret did not go to school until she was twelve - which, however, did not prevent her from growing into a successful writer.Her role models were her mother, who rode horseback, swam in a canoe, fished and drove away bears with a mop, and Aunt Ada (after whom one of the heroines is named in the "Testaments"), a hunter and a talented shooter. A childhood surrounded by wilderness has shaped Atwood's lifelong vision: she is an avid animal rights activist, and the Booker Prize money has donated to charities to protect endangered species. Atwood is not very concerned about politics (although she is well versed in it), but she is very worried about the state of the ocean - the writer is convinced that it is necessary to save it in the first place, otherwise the oxygen level on the planet will fall to a catastrophic level. She described her concerns about this in The Mad Addam Trilogy, a fantastic cycle about what can happen if genetic experimentation goes too far.

Despite the fact that Atwood does not like the term "fantasy", she is not alien to innovative ideas. She invented a device for remotely signing documents using ink, and also took part in the art project of the Scottish artist Katie Paterson "Library of the Future". The project is designed for a hundred years: in 2014, a thousand pines were planted in a forest near Oslo, the wood of which in a hundred years will be used for paper for books - but not simple ones, and also set aside for a century. Atwood became the first writer to send her novel to the organizers of the action. Her "Chronicler of the Moon" will be released only in 2114, along with the works of David Mitchell, Elif Shafak and other famous writers - the organizers hope to attract a hundred.

Photos: Gettyimages (1, 2)


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