Awardee 2017

Margaret Atwood

The Board of Trustees has chosen the Canadian writer Margaret Atwood as the winner of the 2017 Peace Prize. The award ceremony took place on 15 October 2017 in Frankfurt's Paulskirche. The laudatory speech was held by the Austrian writer Eva Menasse.

Statement of the Jury

The German Publishers and Booksellers Association awards the 2016 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade to Margaret Atwood. 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.

The Award ceremony

Börsenverein president Heinrich Riethmüller with Margaret Atwood and the mayor of Frankfurt Peter Feldmann.


Margaret Atwood’s poems sharpen the way we look at life in all its facets, uncertainties, contradictions and beauty. Her novels open our eyes to how bleak the world becomes when we fail to fulfil our obligation to work in the service of peaceful coexistence.

Heinrich Riethmüller - Greeting
Heinrich Riethmüller
Greeting of the president

When Margaret Atwood takes note of an erratic water drip, she is more than capable of narrating us all the way to the tidal wave.

Eva Menasse - Laudation for Margaret Atwood
Eva Menasse
Laudatory speech

Let us just say that stories are powerful. They can change the way people think and feel – for better or for worse.

Margaret Atwood - Acceptance speech
Margaret Atwood
Acceptance speech

Chronicle of the year 2017

+ + + Inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. + + + Women's March on Washington. + + + Election of Frank-Walter Steinmeier as German President. + + + Declaration of the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union under Article 50. + + + + The controversial outcome of a constitutional referendum significantly increases the future powers of the President in Turkey. + + +

+ + + US President Donald Trump announces the withdrawal of the USA from the Paris Climate Change Agreement. + + + + A major fire in a high-rise apartment building kills at least 80 people in London. + + + Helmut Kohl dies at the age of 87 and becomes the first European to be honored with a European state act. + + + The German Bundestag decides to introduce "marriage for all". + + + G20 summit in Hamburg. + + + The AfD succeeds in entering the Bundestag for the first time in Germany's federal elections. + + + In a massacre in Las Vegas, USA, 58 people are shot by a single perpetrator. + + + At least 358 people are killed in an attack in the Somali capital Mogadishu. + + + In Germany, exploratory talks lasting several weeks to form a "Jamaica coalition" fail. + + + Large-scale forest fires kill 43 people in Northern California. + + + Following the declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by US President Trump, the United Nations General Assembly rejects by a large majority any unilateral declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. + + +

Biography Margaret Atwood

Margaret Eleanor Atwood was born in Ottawa on November 18, 1939 and spent the first part of her childhood in the forests of northern Quebec, where her father conducted research as an entomologist. During this time, she and her older brother and younger sister were taught at home by their mother. In 1946, when her father took up a position at the University of Toronto, Atwood began attending regular school for the first time. From 1957 to 1962, she studied English and literature at universities in Toronto and Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1963, she got her professional life underway at a market research company, and in 1964, she began working as a professor of literature at various universities.  

Atwood started publishing her first poems (see »The Circle Game«) in the early 1960s in what she referred to as a »private printing press«. She then continued to make an increasingly respected name for herself throughout the 1970s with a number of further volumes of poetry. It was at this time in her career that she began to focus on writing novels. Today, she is considered the most important and most successful author in Canada. Her work, which comprises novels, short stories, essays, poetry, stage plays, screenplays and children’s books, has been translated into more than 30 languages.

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), in which she examined the role of Canadian literature and literary history with tremendous wit and concision. She followed that up with her first two novels, »The Edible Woman« (1969) and »Surfacing« (1972), in which she explored the perception of women’s role in modern Canada.

In 1985, Atwood published »The Handmaid’s Tale«, a dystopian novel in the tradition of George Orwell. The novel depicts a totalitarian society in which women are meticulously oppressed and used as birth machines. By taking up certain social tendencies of her day and following their logic to its latent conclusion, Atwood was able to create a novel of timeless relevance. The Handmaid’s Tale brought her to the peak of her already impressive literary career, and in 1989, German director Volker Schlöndorff even directed a film version. Today, precisely due to its enduring topicality, the novel is back on bestseller lists and experiencing a renaissance in American society under Donald Trump.

After »Cat’s Eye« (1988), which explores the childhood and friendship of two women in post-war Canada, and »The Robber Bride« (1993), in which she examines women’s darker side, Atwood published »Alias Grace« (1996), a historical fiction about a mysterious girl sentenced to life in prison for murder in the mid 19th century. After »The Blind Assassin« (2000), a broad portrait of Canadian society in the 20th century that garnered her the Booker Prize for Fiction, she shifted her focus to themes of ecological devastation and dangerous social tendencies in the post-apocalyptic worlds of her end-of-times trilogy »Oryx und Crake« (2003), »The Year of the Flood« (2009) and »MaddAddam« (2013). Known today for being an author and an environmental activist, Atwood coined the term »speculative fiction« to describe her work, although nothing she describes in her novels is pure invention. She takes a similar approach in her socially critical work »Payback. Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth« (2008), a collection of lectures in which she examines the preconditions and consequences of the global financial crisis. Drawing on facts from cultural history, literature and linguistics, she spotlights the concept of economic and moral guilt found in the economic disaster.  

In the past several years, Atwood had rounded out her literary oeuvre with a number of works, including »Scribbler Moon«, a novel that will be published no sooner than 2114 as part of the Future Library Project. She also published »The Tent« (2006) and »Stone Mattress« (2014), as well as the novels »The Heart Goes Last« (2015) and »Hag-Seed« (2016). In addition to writing, Atwood continues to be active both politically and socially. In Germany, the latest product of her efforts is a volume of collected essays translated into German and set for publication in November 2017; »Aus Neugier und Leidenschaft« presents the cosmos of Margaret Atwood, including reviews, travel reports, writings on ecological themes and short stories. In May 2017, Atwood joined Salman Rushdie at the head of a campaign to garner support and higher levels of attention for authors suffering persecution and censorship. The campaign involves more than 200 writers and artists belonging to PEN International.

Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto with her second husband, the writer Graeme Gibson. Toronto is also the home of the Margaret Atwood Society, an organization dedicated to international scholarship and discourse on her work, for which she has received several honorary doctor titles.


2017 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade
2017 Franz Kafka Preis, Czech Republic
2017 National Book Critics Circle Lifetime Achievement Award
2016 PEN Printer Prize

2012 Canadian Booksellers' Lifetime Achievement Award
2010 Dan David Award, Israel
2009 Nelly Sachs Prize
2008 Prinz-von-Asturien Prize, Spain
2005 Chicago Tribune Literary Prize
2000 Booker Prize for Fiction
1999 London Literature Award
1996 Giller Prize
1989 Canadian Book-of-the-Year-Award
1986 Los Angeles Times Fiction Award
1978 St. Lawrence Award for Fiction
1977 and 1989 Canadian Booksellers' Association Award
1977 and 1989 City of Toronto Book Award
1974 Bess Hopkins Prize
1966 Governor General's Award


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Eva Menasse

Eva Menasse, born 1970 in Vienna, lives as a writer in Berlin. With her novels, collections of stories and essays and as a member of the PEN Centre Germany, she stands for politically and socially committed authorship.

After studying German and history, Eva Menasse worked as an editor, including for the feature section of the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung". From her coverage of the London trial of the Holocaust denier David Irving in 2000, the book "Der Holocaust vor Gericht. Der Prozess um David Irving" (Siedler Verlag) has been published.

In her debut novel "Vienna" (Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2005), for which she received the Rolf-Heyne-Debütpreis, she creates a series of pictures of an entire epoch with the stories of a Viennese family with Jewish roots. Her novel "Quasikristalle" (Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2013) traces the biography of a woman from different perspectives. It has been awarded the Heinrich Böll Prize, among others.

In 2015 Eva Menasse was honoured for her work to date with the Jonathan Swift Prize and in 2017 with the Friedrich Hölderlin Prize. Also in 2017, her collection of stories "Tiere für Fortgeschrittene" (Kiepenheuer & Witsch) was published - a collection of curious animal stories with which she exposes human abysses.