The Board of Trustees of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade has chosen the Canadian author, essayist and poet Margaret Atwood to be the recipient of this year’s Peace Prize. The announcement was made today by Heinrich Riethmüller, Chairman of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association (Börsenverein) at the opening of the 2017 Berlin Book Days. The award ceremony will take place on Sunday, October 15, 2017, the final day of the Frankfurt Book Fair, at the Church of St. Paul in Frankfurt am Main. The ceremony will be broadcast live on German public television. The Peace Prize has been awarded since 1950 and is endowed with a sum of €25,000.
The Board of Trustees issued the following statement with regard to their choice: “In her wide range of novels, essays and volumes of poetry, Canadian author Margaret Atwood has demonstrated a keen political intuition and a deeply perceptive ability to detect dangerous and underlying developments and tendencies. As one of the most important storytellers of our era, Atwood fearlessly probes shifting patterns of thought and behavior in both her utopian and dystopian works. By precisely observing the contradictions of human nature, she shows how easily our alleged norms can deviate towards the inhumane. Humanity, justice and tolerance are the unvarying characteristics of Atwood’s work. With an alert eye and a profound knowledge of humankind, she observes the world around her and articulates her verdicts and concerns for our fate in an equally eloquent and vivid literary manner. Through her, we experience who we are, where we stand and what responsibilities we carry with regard to ourselves and our peaceful coexistence with others.”
Margaret Atwood was born on November 18, 1939 in Ottawa, Canada, and is considered that country’s most important and most successful author. Her work comprises novels, short stories, essays, poetry, stage plays, screenplays and children’s books, and it has been translated into more than 30 languages. She lives in Toronto with her husband, the writer Graeme Gibson.
From 1957 to 1962, Margaret Atwood studied English and literature at universities in Toronto and Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1964, she began working as a professor of literature at various universities. She published her first poems (such as those in “The Circle Game”) in the early 1960s in what she called a “private printing.” Atwood achieved far-reaching national and international recognition with the publication of her first work of literary criticism, “Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature” (1972), as well as with her first two novels, “The Edible Woman” (1969) and “Surfacing” (1972).
In her novels and essays, Atwood deals intensively with social and political themes. For example, “The Handmaid’s Tale” (1985) is a dystopian novel in the tradition of George Orwell and depicts a totalitarian society in which women are meticulously oppressed and used as birthing machines. In her end-of-times trilogy “Oryx und Crake” (2003), “The Year of the Flood” (2009) and “MaddAddam” (2013), she created a post-apocalyptic world to examine the ecological impact and dangerous tendencies of society. Her essay “Payback. Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth” (2008) thematised the preconditions and consequences of the global financial crisis. Atwood is also active beyond her creative work, for example as an environmental activist. Together with Salman Rushdie, she has also headed up since May 2017 a PEN International campaign designed to foster support and increased attention for writers suffering persecution and censorship.
Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards, including the Booker Prize for Fiction (2000), the Nelly Sachs Prize (2009), the Canadian Booksellers Lifetime Achievement Award (2012) and the PEN Printer Prize (2016). Her most recent novel, “Hag-Seed,” was published in 2016). In late 2017, a volume of essays titled “Aus Neugier und Leidenschaft” (tr. For Reasons of Curiosity and Passion) will spotlight the cosmos of Margaret Atwood for German readers and comprise reviews, travel reports, short stories and ecological writings.