Atwood awarded PEN Pinter Prize ahead of UK tour

Atwood awarded PEN Pinter Prize ahead of UK tour

Margaret Atwood has been awarded the 2016 PEN Pinter Prize at the same time as it is announced that she will be embarking on a UK book tour.

Atwood, who also announced tour dates to promote her new novel Hag-Seed (Hogarth) today (16th June), will receive her award at a public event at the British Library on the evening of Thursday 13th October, where she will deliver an address and announce her co-winner, the 2016 International Writer of Courage.

The prize, founded in 2009, is awarded annually to a writer of outstanding literary merit who, in the words of Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize in Literature speech, casts an “unflinching, unswerving” gaze upon the world and shows a “fierce intellectual determination ... to define the real truth of our lives and our societies”.

The judges, comprising Vicky Featherstone, Zia Haider Rahman, Peter Stothard, Antonia Fraser and President of English PEN and chair of Judges, Maureen Freely, praised Atwood as “an inspiration to us all”.

They said: “Her work championing environmental concerns comes well within the scope of human rights … she is a very important figure in terms of the principles of PEN and of Harold Pinter.” This year, for the first time, the prize is open to writers from the Republic of Ireland and the Commonwealth, as well as from the UK.

Atwood has written over 40 works of fiction, including The Handmaid’s Tale (Vintage), the Booker-winner The Blind Assassin (Virago), the Maddadam trilogy (Virago) and The Heart Goes Last (Bloomsbury). 

She said: “I am humbled to be the recipient of the 2016 PEN Pinter Prize. I knew Harold Pinter and worked with him – he wrote the scenario for the film version of The Handmaid’s Tale, back in 1989 – and his burning sense of injustice at human rights abuses and the repression of artists was impressive even then. Any winner of such an award is a stand-in for the thousands of people around the world who speak and act against such abuses. I am honoured to be this year’s stand-in.”

Harold Pinter’s widow, Antonia Fraser, said he had “admired” Atwood, “as a writer, a campaigner and a person”. She added: “He would be especially delighted by her generous response to this award.”                                             

Freely, president of English PEN, said: “In a profession dominated by careerists who are content to tend to their own gardens, Margaret Atwood is the shining exception. She does not just stand up for her principles: in novel after novel, she has put them to the test. What she does as a campaigner has only served to deepen her work as a writer of fiction. She is an inspiration to us all.”

A limited edition booklet of Atwood’s British Library address will be published by Faber & Faber and available to the audience at the event, tickets for which will be on sale soon.

Atwood is in the UK during October and early November 2016 for her UK tour, which kicks off with appearances at the London Literature Festival and Manchester Literature Festival on 6th and 7th October, respectively. She will next appear at both the RSC Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon and Bathwick St Mary’s, Bath, on 8th October; followed by a Dublin stop at the Pavilion Theatre on 9th October; Edinburgh at the King’s Theatre on 10th October; York Theatre Royal on 11th October; Ely Cathedral on 12th October and be in Oxford at the Sheldonian Theatre on 9th November.