Margaret Atwood

(Margaret Eleanor Atwood)

Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood
  • Born: November 18, 1939
  • Nationality: Canadian
  • Profession: Novelist

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Margaret Eleanor Atwood, CC OOnt FRSC is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, and environmental activist. She is a winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and Prince of Asturias Award for Literature, has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, winning once, and has been a finalist for the Governor General's Award several times, winning twice. In 2001, she was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame. She is also a founder of the Writers' Trust of Canada, a non-profit literary organization that seeks to encourage Canada's writing community. Among innumerable contributions to Canadian literature, she was a founding trustee of the Griffin Poetry Prize.

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Biological science is a tool, and like all tools, it can be used for good or bad. It’s like a knife blade with three edges: The edge that cuts, the dull edge that does not cut well and the edge that cuts what you do not want it to. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Canada was built on dead beavers. Environment & Environmentalism
Childhood can be hell. One reason … is that as a child you have no power. Power
History cannot be erased, although we can soothe ourselves by speculating about it. History
I remember when the feminist movement started. I was in Edmonton. There was no feminist movement in Edmonton. Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers
In my school as a young girl, they taught us that we would be protected from the atomic bomb if we got under the desk. Chemical & Biological Weapons & Energy ;Nuclear, Chemical & Biological Weapons & Energy
Massachusetts we look at as the home of liberal democracy. In the 16th century, it was the home of repressive theology. Liberals & Conservatives
Most Americans think that Canada is a part of the United States—a chilly part. States. Nations & Nationhood
Never believe anything until it's officially denied. Propaganda & Disinformation
Once you open the toy box they will play with the toys Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
People do not like to be confronted with unpleasant possibilities of their own futures. Human Nature
The most potent combination is that of religion and politics, because then if you object, you are a heretic. Religion & God
'1984' is not a wonder tale. Not only could it happen, but it has happened, but under different names.
A divorce is like an amputation: you survive it, but there's less of you.
A ratio of failures is built into the process of writing. The wastebasket has evolved for a reason.
A reader can never tell if it's a real thimble or an imaginary thimble, because by the time you're reading it, they're the same. It's a thimble. It's in the book. Time
A voice is a human gift; it should be cherished and used, to utter fully human speech as possible. Powerlessness and silence go together.
A word after a word after a word is power. Power
All fat women look the same; they all look 42. Women
All fiction is about people, unless it's about rabbits pretending to be people. It's all essentially characters in action, which means characters moving through time and changes taking place, and that's what we call 'the plot'. Time
An eye for an eye only leads to more blindness.
Another belief of mine; that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.
As an artist your first loyalty is to your art. Unless this is the case, you're going to be a second-rate artist. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
As soon as you have a language that has a past tense and a future tense you're going to say, 'Where did we come from, what happens next?' The ability to remember the past helps us plan the future. Future
Because I am a mother, I am capable of being shocked: as I never was when I was not one.
Before the Civil War, Canada was at the top of the underground railroad. If you made it into Canada, you were safe unless someone came and hauled you back. That was also true during the Vietnam War for draft resisters. War & Peace
Canada is a balloon-puncturing country. You are not really allowed to be an icon unless you also make an idiot of yourself.
Communications technology changes possibilities for communication, but that doesn't mean it changes the inherited structure of the brain. So you may think that you're addicted to online reading, but as soon as it isn't available anymore, your brain will pretty immediately adjust to other forms of reading. It's a habit like all habits. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Debt is part of the human condition. Civilization is based on exchanges - on gifts, trades, loans - and the revenges and insults that come when they are not paid back.
Every aspect of human technology has a dark side, including the bow and arrow. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Every utopia - let's just stick with the literary ones - faces the same problem: What do you do with the people who don't fit in?
Fiction is not necessarily about what you know, it's about how you feel. That is the truth about fiction, and the other truth is that all science is a tool, and we use our tools not to actualise what we know, but to implement how we feel. Truth ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
For years I wanted to be older, and now I am.
Foreignness is all around. Only in the heart of the heart of the country, namely the heart of the United States, can you avoid such a thing. In the center of an empire, you can think of your experience as universal. Outside the empire or on the fringes of the empire, you cannot.
Gardening is not a rational act.
Genres aren't closed boxes. Stuff flows back and forth across the borders all the time. Time
Heroes need monsters to establish their heroic credentials. You need something scary to overcome.
I began writing at the age of 5, but there was a dark period between the ages of 8 and 16 when I didn't write. I started again at 16 and have no idea why, but it was suddenly the only thing I wanted to do.
I didn't go to school for a full year until I was 12. In the summer I was a wild child in the woods, with no shoes, and in the fall it was back to the city, shoe shops and school.
I don't think of poetry as a 'rational' activity but as an aural one. My poems usually begin with words or phrases which appeal more because of their sound than their meaning, and the movement and phrasing of a poem are very important to me. Literature, Writers & Writing
I don't think the relationship between novels and realities are one to one. Of course novels play different roles. It's essentially just a long narrative form. What you use that long narrative form for can be very different.
I got into trouble a while ago for saying that I thought the internet led to increased literacy - people scolded me about the shocking grammar to be found online - but I was talking about fundamentals: quite simply, you can't use the net unless you can read.
I grew up in the golden age of Flash Gordon and sci-fi.
I grew up in the north woods of Canada. You had to know certain things about survival. Wilderness survival courses weren't very formalized when I was growing up, but I was taught certain things about what to do if I got lost in the woods.
I grew up with the biologists. I know how they think.
I hate to tell you this, but you will never actually go to a galaxy far, far away and encounter Darth Vader. That's science fiction; it isn't going to happen. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
I have a big following among the biogeeks of this world. Nobody ever puts them in books.
I have been known to buy e-versions of my books because I was in a hotel room and I needed one right away to look up something in it; very handy for that - you can have it just the next minute; you can press the button and just have it.
I hope that people will finally come to realize that there is only one 'race' - the human race - and that we are all members of it. Hope
I know that some books and some writers, you can pretty much draw a square around it and say, 'Nobody under 40,' or 'Nobody under 25.' With my books, it always has been, and continues to be, spread right across the board, and I think the operative term is 'reader.'
I learned to read very early so I could read the comics, which I then started to draw.
I particularly like Twitter, because it's short and can be very funny and informative. It's a little bit like having your own radio program. Humor
I spent much of my childhood in northern Quebec, and often there was no radio, no television - there wasn't a lot to entertain us. When it rained, I stayed inside reading, writing, drawing.
I tend to feel if people say they're going to do something, they will, if given the chance.
I think every age lives in a blend of technology so there's always older ones mixed in with newer ones, and when the new technology goes down, the immediate fallback position is either that technology just before that or one several technologies back. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
I was born in the Ottawa General Hospital right after the Gray Cup Football Game in 1939. Six months later, I was backpacked into the Quebec bush. I grew up in and out of the bush, in and out of Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie and Toronto.
I was once a graduate student in Victorian literature, and I believe as the Victorian novelists did, that a novel isn't simply a vehicle for private expression, but that it also exists for social examination. I firmly believe this.
I was warped early by Ray Bradbury and Edgar Allan Poe. I was very fond of Franz Kafka.
If I pick up a book with spaceships on the cover, I want spaceships. If I see one with dragons, I want there to be dragons inside the book. Proper labeling. Ethical labeling. I don't want to open up my cornflakes and find that they're full of pebbles... You need to respect the reader enough not to call it something it isn't. Respect
If I pick up a book with vampires on the cover, I want there to be vampires. If I pick up a book with spaceships on the cover, I want spaceships. If I see one with dragons, I want there to be dragons inside the book. Proper labeling. Ethical labeling.
If I were going to convert to any religion I would probably choose Catholicism because it at least has female saints and the Virgin Mary. Religion & God
If it's all instruction, you get annoyed with it and bored, and you stop reading. If it's all entertainment, you read it quite quickly, your heart going pitty-pat, pitty-pat. But when you finish, that's it. You're not going to think about it much afterward, apart from the odd nightmare. You're not going to read that book again.
If one of the arguments against eating meat is to do with cruelty and animal intelligence, then lab meat avoids that. There's also the environmental argument for it.
If social stability goes pear-shaped, you have a choice between anarchy and dictatorship. Most people will opt for more security, even if they have to give up some personal freedom. Freedom & Liberty
If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia.
If you feel that there's the author and then the character, then the book is not working. People have a habit of identifying the author with the narrator, and you can't, obviously, be all of the narrators in all of your books, or else you'd be a very strange person indeed.
If you're put on a pedestal, you're supposed to behave yourself like a pedestal type of person. Pedestals actually have a limited circumference. Not much room to move around.
If you're waiting for the perfect moment, you'll never write a thing because it will never arrive. I have no routine. I have no foolproof anything. There's nothing foolproof.
I'm a person of whim, and easily distracted. I don't like multitasking. When I'm doing one thing, I like to do just that thing.
I'm a strict, strict agnostic. It's very different from a casual, 'I don't know.' It's that you cannot present as knowledge something that is not knowledge. You can present it as faith, you can present it as belief, but you can't present it as fact. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Religion & God
I'm bad at picking heroes.
I'm from the generation that had the boys' door and the girls' door when you went to school, and you got in big trouble if you went in the wrong one.
I'm not interested in cutting the feet off my characters or stretching them to make them fit my certain political view.
I'm the only person you've ever met who has read Longfellow.
I've never bought into any sort of hard and fast, this-box/that-box characterization. People are individuals. Yes, they may be expected to be a particular way. But that doesn't mean they're going to be that way.
I've never understood why people consider youth a time of freedom and joy. It's probably because they have forgotten their own. Time ;Freedom & Liberty
Like many modern poets, I tend to conceal rhymes by placing them in the middle of lines, and to avoid immediate alliteration and assonance in favor of echoes placed later in the poems.
Little girls are cute and small only to adults. To one another they are not cute. They are life-sized.
My brother and I were both good at science, and we were both good at English literature. Either one of us could have gone either way. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Myths can't be translated as they did in their ancient soil. We can only find our own meaning in our own time. Time
Never pray for justice, because you might get some.
Once upon a time, novelists of the 19th century, such as Charles Dickens, published in serial form. Time
Once you publish a book, it is out of your control. You cannot dictate how people read it.
Optimism means better than reality; pessimism means worse than reality. I'm a realist.
Our generation in the west was lucky: we had readymade gateways. We had books, paper, teachers, schools and libraries. But many in the world lack these luxuries. How do you practice without such tryout venues?
Our problem right now is that we're so specialized that if the lights go out, there are a huge number of people who are not going to know what to do. But within every dystopia there's a little utopia.
People use technology only to mean digital technology. Technology is actually everything we make. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Please don't make the mistake of thinking that 'Oryx and Crake' is anti-science. Science is a way of knowing, and a tool. Like all ways of knowing and tools, it can be turned to bad uses. And it can be bought and sold, and it often is. But it is not in itself bad. Like electricity, it's neutral. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Popular art is the dream of society; it does not examine itself. Society ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Reading and writing are connected. I learned to read very early so I could read the comics, which I then started to draw.
Reading and writing, like everything else, improve with practice. And, of course, if there are no young readers and writers, there will shortly be no older ones. Literacy will be dead, and democracy - which many believe goes hand in hand with it - will be dead as well.
Reality simply consists of different points of view.
Religions in general have to rediscover their roots. In Hinduism and the Koran, animals are described as equals. If you walk into a cathedral and look at the decorations of early Christianity, there are vines, animals, creatures and birds thriving all over the stonework.
Science and fiction both begin with similar questions: What if? Why? How does it all work? But they focus on different areas of life on earth. Life ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Science fiction is filled with Martians and space travel to other planets, and things like that. Travel ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Science fiction, to me, has not only things that wouldn't happen, but other planets. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Science is a tool, and we invent tools to do things we want. It's a question of how those tools are used by people. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Science never makes things that do not have to do with what we feel, by which I mean what we want and what we fear. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Social media is called social media for a reason. It lends itself to sharing rather than horn-tooting.
Some bioengineering is good, especially if it results in plants that are more drought-resistant or perennial food crops. Nutrition, Food, Starvation, Farming & Agriculture
Some of our earliest writing, in cuneiform, was about who owes what.
Some people mistakenly think nature is very nice and benevolent and never betrays. Nature
Sooner or later, I hate to break it to you, you're gonna die, so how do you fill in the space between here and there? It's yours. Seize your space.
Speculative fiction encompasses that which we could actually do. Sci-fi is that which we're probably not going to see.
Storytelling is a very old human skill that gives us an evolutionary advantage. If you can tell young people how you kill an emu, acted out in song or dance, or that Uncle George was eaten by a croc over there, don't go there to swim, then those young people don't have to find out by trial and error.
The answers you get from literature depend on the questions you pose.
The beginning of Canadian cultural nationalism was not 'Am I really that oppressed?' but 'Am I really that boring?'
The darkness is really out there. It's not something that's in my head, just. It's in my work because it's in the world. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them: there ought to be as many for love. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
The genesis of a poem for me is usually a cluster of words. The only good metaphor I can think of is a scientific one: dipping a thread into a supersaturated solution to induce crystal formation. I don't think I solve problems in my poetry; I think I uncover the problems. Literature, Writers & Writing
The myth that everyone once read great literature is just a myth.
The object is very clear in the fight against racism; you have reasons why you're opposed to it. But when you're writing a novel, you don't want the reader to come out of it voting yes or no to some question. Life is more complicated than that. Life
The problem with meditating is I generally go to sleep, and that's because I'm doing it wrong.
The society in 'The Handmaid's Tale' is a throwback to the early Puritans whom I studied extensively at Harvard under Perry Miller, to whom the book is dedicated. Society
The story as told in The Odyssey doesn't hold water. There are too many inconsistencies.
The thing about delirium is you think it's great, but it actually isn't.
The threat to the planet is us. It's actually not a threat to the planet - it's a threat to us.
Their mothers had finally caught up to them and been proven right. There were consequences after all but they were the consequences to things you didn't even know you'd done.
There is good and mediocre writing within every genre.
There may not be one Truth - there may be several truths - but saying that is not to say that reality doesn't exist. Truth
There would be no Sherlock Holmes if it were not for serial publication.
There's a difference between describing and evoking something. You can describe something and be quite clinical about it. To evoke it, you call it up in the reader. That's what writers do when they're good.
This above all, to refuse to be a victim.
Time is compressed like the fist I close on my knee... I hold inside it the clues and solutions and the power for what I must do now. Time ;Power
Vampires get the joy of flying around and living forever, werewolves get the joy of animal spirits. But zombies, they're not rich, or aristocratic, they shuffle around. They're a group phenomenon, they're not very fast, they're quite sickly. So what's the pleasure of being one?
Victorian literature was my subject at Harvard.
War is what happens when language fails. War & Peace
We have to rethink our whole energy approach, which is hard to do because we're so dependent on oil, not just for fuel but also plastic. If plastic vanished, there would be total chaos. We have to think quite carefully about using oil and its derivatives, because it's not going to be around forever.
We shouldn't be saying 'Save the planet'; we should be saying: 'Save viable conditions in which people can live.' That's what we're dealing with here.
We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly.
We thought we were running away from the grownups, and now we are the grownups.
When I am writing fiction, I believe I am much better organized, more methodical - one has to be when writing a novel. Writing poetry is a state of free float. Literature, Writers & Writing
When I was 16, I started publishing all kinds of things in school magazines.
When things are really dismal, you can laugh, or you can cave in completely.
When you're writing a novel, you don't want the reader to come out of it voting yes or no to some question. Life is more complicated than that. Reality simply consists of different points of view. Life
Within one's own family, money is not the measure of things, unless the person is an absolute Scrooge. Only the most extreme kind of monster would put a price on everything. Families, Children & Parenting ;Money, Coins & Minting
Writers and books are cheap dates, especially when you compare the cost of a book with a ticket to the opera - or an NHL game.
You can examine the whole 19th century from the point of view of who would have maxed out their credit cards. Emma Bovary would have maxed hers out. No question. Mr. Scrooge would not have. He would have snipped his up.
You could tell 'The Handmaid's Tale' from a male point of view. People have mistakenly felt that the women are oppressed, but power tends to organise itself in a pyramid. I could pick a male narrator from somewhere in that pyramid. It would interesting. Women ;Power
You hear doom and gloom about the Internet ruining young people's command of English - that's nonsense.
You need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer.
You quickly find, when you are a hand-reader as I am, that nothing interests people so much as themselves.
You will always have partial points of view, and you'll always have the story behind the story that hasn't come out yet. And any form of journalism you're involved with is going to be up against a biased viewpoint and partial knowledge. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
Younger people have greatest fears. Why is that? Because they don't know the plot. They don't know their own individual plot... they don't know what's going to happen to them.
You're never going to kill storytelling, because it's built into the human plan. We come with it.