Margaret Atwood

The Board of Trustees of the Kenyon Review is pleased to honor Margaret Atwood as the 2007 recipient of the Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement. Atwood, whose poetry, fiction, and nonfiction books are among the most widely read and influential across the globe, is the author of such acclaimed novels as The Blind Assassin, Cat’s Eye, and The Handmaid’s Tale. Her work is luminous and complex, uncannily prescient, often sardonic, always relevant.

About Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa, Ontario, in 1939, and spent much of her early years in the Canadian wilderness where her father did research as a forest entomologist. In 1946, her family moved to Toronto. It was there, in her senior year of high school, that Atwood says, “a large invisible thumb descended from the sky and pressed down on the top of my head. A poem formed.”

She received her B.A. in 1961 from Victoria College, University of Toronto, and then earned her M.A. from Radcliffe College in 1962. Her first major book of poems, The Circle Game, was written while she was teaching grammar to engineering students in British Columbia. That collection received Canada’s Governor General’s Award, the first of two such prestigious awards she would receive.

Since this auspicious beginning, Atwood has gone on to win dozens of awards for her poetry, fiction, criticism, and social activism. She is, perhaps, best known for her novels, including The Edible Woman (1970); The Handmaid’s Tale (1983), which earned her a second Governor General’s Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and became a feature-length film; Cat’s Eye (1989); The Robber Bride (1994); Alias Grace (1996); and The Blind Assassin (2000). Alias Grace, The Handmaid’s Tale and Cat’s Eye were each shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction. The Blind Assassin was successful in winning this prize in 2000. The Sunday Times praised Atwood’s most recent novel, Oryx and Crake, as “superlatively gripping, remarkably imagined.” It, too, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2003.

Atwood’s works cover a wide range of territory—from feminism to fascism, from childhood bullying to self-identity, from memory to metamorphosis. She draws these complex personal and social concerns with lyrical, spare prose, graceful intelligence, and razor-sharp wit. So universal are the themes in Atwood’s novels that her books are featured in English classes and translated into more than 30 languages.

Among her many awards are: Woman of the Year by Ms. magazine (1986), Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (1987), the Humanist of the Year (1987), the Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence (1994), and Government of France’s Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1994).

Photo of Margaret Atwood by George Whiteside.

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