Booker Prize: Margaret Atwood, Pythia of our atrocious modernity

PORTRAIT – Alongside Anglo-Nigerian Bernardine Evaristo, the 79-year-old novelist received the prestigious literary award for Wills, Following The Scarlet Handmaid.

The Swedish Academy shunned her, the Booker Prize jurors crown her. Nineteen years after his book The Blind Killer, the canadian Margaret atwood once again receives the prestigious literary prize. The jury awarded Wills (Robert Laffont), continuation and end of his now cult novel: The Scarlet Handmaid. But that’s not all. For the third time since its creation fifty years ago, the prize has chosen to simultaneously crown another work.

He distinguished the Anglo-Nigerian author Bernardine Evaristo, for Girl, Woman, Other (not translated into French). A chronicle of the life of black families in Great Britain, also named “best work of fiction in English of the year”. The novelists faced Salman rushdie (winner of the Booker Prize in 1981), Lucy Elmann, Chigozie Obioma and Elif Shafak.

“READ ALSO – The Nobel Prize for Literature takes on color

I am very surprised, I would have thought that I am too old», Confessed Margaret Atwood, who wore a badge of the environmental movement Extinction Rebellion, last night during the presentation of the Booker Prize. Visibly very moved, the Anglo-Nigerian Bernardine Evaristo judged “unbelievable” to share the price with a “legend” such as Margaret Atwood, while recalling: “I am the first black woman to win it.” The two winners therefore received a pretty dowry of 50,000 pounds (54,800 euros). Bernardine Evaristo explained that this reward would be used to repay her loan, Margaret Atwood indicating that she would donate it to charity.

Orwell, Huxley, Verne and Bradbury

With this double choice, one might think that the jury gave in to a certain ease. Indeed, the price rules have evolved to prevent such a configuration from being possible. However, the president of the jury, Peter Florence, explained during his introductory speech that “the situation required choosing these two books: Wills and Girl, Woman, Other ”. We will nonetheless remember that the awarding of this prize comes a few days after the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Literature, for which the favorite Margaret Atwood left empty-handed.

As a reminder, Margaret Atwood has built a veritable literary monument for more than forty years. Icon of the counter-culture and feminist in spite of herself (she refuses to label herself in this way), a fine reader of Orwell, Huxley and Jules Verne, she has to her credit some forty works combining novels, poems, short stories. Among them, the very famous Scarlet maid which has sold in its English version to more than 8 million copies worldwide and which has become a phenomenon since its serial adaptation on the Hulu platform. The novel, which belongs to the dystopia genre, depicts an America ruled by a totalitarian theocracy in which fertile women are exploited while the birth rate has dropped dramatically in the aftermath of an ecological disaster. Wills, published last week in France, completes this book published thirty-five years ago and sheds light on questions dear to Margaret Atwood.

The status of women, politics, ecology, society of overconsumption … These are the themes that are at the heart of the work of this author who grew up in the middle of the forests, surrounded by scientists, in Ottawa. Born November 18, 1939, Margaret Eleanor “Peggy” is a little girl who spends her time following her father, a biologist and entomologist. Taciturn, creative, curious, she took refuge from the age of four in reading Grimm’s tales. At six, she wrote her first poems and a novel about an ant. “I grew up reading science fiction and anticipation novels”, she confided to Figaro in 2017.

“True” novels

At ten, she devours Animal Farm. Then, she immersed herself in the fantastic voyages of Jules Verne. Then, as an adult, she will discover the dark universe of Ray Bradbury. From the author of Around the world in 80 days, she keeps her concern for realism. From the author of Farenheit 451, it retains the criticism of a society which, under cover of good intentions, leads to a form of despotism. In this, Margaret Atwood fits into the genre of utopia (and especially dystopia) and what she calls “speculative fiction”. Stories that radicalize existing facts and give a voice to women and marginalized people. “My anticipation novels are firmly rooted on Earth and contain nothing that is purely made up.», She explains. As a result, it differs from the authors of SF.

In 1961 Atwood graduated from the University of Toronto, completed an MA at Radcliffe University, and graduated from Harvard. At the same time, she publishes Double Persephone, a collection of poems that celebrates nature. “Environmental issues concern us all. If we don’t fix them, the human race will perish (…) I grew up with biologists. So I learned a long time ago that there is nothing within ecosystems that lives in isolation from other living entities.“, she confided to Figaro .

His first novel, The Edible Woman, published in 1969, tells of the alienation of a certain Marian who stops eating once engaged. This is a critique of the status of women in America in the sixties: despite having studied higher, Marian is reduced to her role of wife and mistress of the house. In Captive (1996), Atwood is interested in a news item from the 19th century: Grace Marks is condemned at the age of sixteen for having killed her master and her governess. No one knows if she is guilty, innocent or mad and only one man, Doctor Simon Jordan, is interested in the truth. There again, Atwood focuses on the rehabilitation of a woman who paid the price for the madness of men. In 2003, she began a trilogy with The Last Man which ends in 2013 with MaddAddam, then revisit Storm by Shakespeare in Witch seed.

Since his first novel, Atwood’s work has never ceased to be crowned. In 2000, the Canadian won the prestigious Booker Prize with The Blind Killer. She is doing double this year with Wills. An ingenious novel which forms the sum of all his inspirations. We find there the “Eye” of Orwell, the tragic Shakespearean, the ecological issues, the critical look of women on their condition and obviously, the excesses of a power which questions fanaticism and despotism.

Novelist Margaret Atwood is also known for her outspoken positions. After having served as a feminist emblem the day after the election of Donald Trump (when his book flew to Amazon, with 1984 from Orwell and The best of worlds d’Huxley), she was criticized on social networks when her column appeared: “Am I a bad feminist?” in 2018. That same year, she responded to the anti-abortion remarks of the Argentinian vice-president in a committed forum. There is no doubt that the author will continue to be talked about for her commitments while she regularly frequents Twitter.

We wish to say thanks to the author of this write-up for this incredible material

Booker Prize: Margaret Atwood, Pythia of our atrocious modernity