Margaret Atwood Wins Second Booker Prize

By | October 15, 2019 at 8:08 pm | No comments | News

PEN Canada celebrates Margaret Atwood’s second Booker Prize for “The Testaments” the long-awaited sequel to her 1985 dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Atwood shared the award with Bernardine Evaristo, author of “Girl, Woman, Other,” and the first black woman to win the Booker. 

Atwood, who won the 2000 prize for “The Blind Assassin” joins Hilary Mantel, J.M. Coetzee and Peter Carey in an elite group of authors who have won the Booker twice. “Margaret Atwood’s prescient fictions deserve all the acclaim they receive,” said Richard Stursberg, president of PEN Canada. “In a cultural moment at which truth faces constant assault from retrograde political forces, her exemplary defence of the unfettered imagination has never been more important. The Booker Committee should also be congratulated for flouting its rules in order to recognize both of these remarkable books.”

In 1984 Atwood, Graeme Gibson and Eugene Benson co-founded PEN Canada, one of more than 140 national centres around the world. Atwood led the centre for its first two years. Since then it has defended hundreds of threatened writers and contributed to the early release of more than sixty writers who were imprisoned for peaceful dissent.

In April 2019, Atwood and Gibson were honorees at PEN’s annual gala at which Atwood presented the One Humanity award to the Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh who is currently serving a 38-year prison sentence for a variety of trumped-up national security offences. Atwood described Sotoudeh as someone who “has tirelessly defended women and children from exactly the sort of arbitrary judicial rulings that have now been used to silence her,” and called on Iran to grant her “immediate and unconditional release.”

In an 2018 essay published by Literary Hub Atwood noted that: “Gone are the days when all we had to defend was the right of novelists to say the F word in print. Now it appears that it is the right of independent-minded journalists to exist at all that is at issue. Democracies ignore this crisis at their peril: if we lose the free press, we will cease to be democracies.”

Photo: Iranian-Canadian human rights activist Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay accepts the 2019 One Humanity award from Margaret Atwood, on behalf of Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.

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