The Birdcage Archives

Saturday 3 June 2017

The Franz Kafka Prize: Margaret Atwood

Hello Gentle Reader

Margaret Atwood is not a writer who comes into fashion and then suddenly out of fashion. Rather than being a tenacious piece of driftwood that is cast ashore by the sea, only to recede back into it, only to wash up on shore years later; Margaret Atwood is a permanent fixture on the literary scene. She is a noted giantess of world literature; and specifically speaking, quite a Canadian giant as well. Atwood assisted in surveying the then: unknown wilderness of Canadian Literature, with her nineteen-seventy two book of literary criticism: “Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature.” Though now considered slightly outdated and perhaps more opinionated, then true objective literary criticism, it did seek to unify Canadian literature as Canadian rather than just being provincial. Margaret Atwood’s work goes beyond her literary pursuits and career; she is also a well-known environmental activist, academic, lecturer, inventor (The LongPen), contributor to numerous newspapers and literary periodicals, but also a noted Twitter user.

Margaret Atwood does not shy from controversy either. In two-thousand and thirteen, Margaret Atwood found herself being spat at by the science fiction community, when she denied her work like: “Oryx and Crake,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” (and subsequent books: “The Year of The Flood,” and “MaddAddam,”) as being ‘science fiction,’ but rather: speculative fiction. Margaret Atwood famously stated that science fiction was: time travel, Martians, and teleportation devices; and went further to state, science fiction consisted of: “Talking squids in space,”—while her work was best defined as speculative fiction, because its plausible, the outcomes presented within those works, are a plausible reality. Needless to say, the science fiction community fought back, calling Atwood’s remarks elitist and snobbish; though Urusla Le Guin, was more understanding of Atwood’s position, found the author against the wall because if she had admitted her work was perhaps science fiction it lost its merit as being literary, and therefore Atwood would lose her status as a serious writer. Margaret Atwood would later clarify her statements, but also held firm with her perspective that science fiction explores realities still far beyond human contemporary achievements, while her work is startling contemporary and very near.

In two-thousand and sixteen, Margaret Atwood found herself being a point of conversation and topic amongst readers and the general public. Her most famous (and controversial) novel was being made into a television series: “The Handmaid’s Tale.” A teaser was advertised during the Super Bowl, with shocking and frightening images of the series, and it ended with Offred commenting that she intends to survive. Not long after, a certain presidential candidate (who no one thought could win) would win the American election, and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” would now fly off the shelves as both a symbol of ones intention to survive, but also as a companion to the new television series—which has just been renewed for a second season.

Since the election of Donald Trump and the television series, Margaret Atwood has been as busy as ever. She’s been requested for interviews, to offer her opinion and commentary, as well as to speak at literary festivals. She is considered at the moment a Prophet and a Oracle of great prescience, and many are seeking her counsel, to see how they may get through these bewildering, tragic, controversial and chaotic times. Now more than ever women fear for their hard-won freedoms (as should men as well—as should all citizens may I add), but also of the danger of a world on the verge of collapse from environmental and climate destruction, as we witness with the starvation in South Sudan and the very real reality that India, will reach soaring new temperatures this summer, then it did the previous one.

Margaret Atwood stands by her conviction, that she is not a pessimist or a prophetic fortune teller; rather she has scoured the past distant and recent, to lay the groundwork for many of her novels; specifically speaking: “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Atwood remains calm and realistic in her approach to writing her works, they are messages which foretell a future which we may inherent if we do not curb our current ways of operation. In this Margaret Atwood offers hope, more than she offers fate.

It is suiting then this year’s Franz Kafka award would go to Margaret Atwood, with her activism pertaining to: environmental concerns, women’s rights, and freedom of speech. The Franz Kafka award is awarded to a writer who suits its criteria: “reward artistically exceptional literary production of a contemporary author whose work addresses readers regardless of their origin, nationality, or culture, like the work of Franz Kafka” It suiting then, Margaret Atwood would be chosen, because she herself has crossed and transcended borders and cultures, to deliver her dire warnings, which are a concern to all human beings on the planet, regardless of their gender or citizenship. Her work concerns all human beings.

Congratulations Margaret Atwood!

Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
Take Care
And As Always
Stay Well Read

M. Mary

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