Atwood did not abandon her original literary interests in this period, but rather added a darker shading. This is evident in her literary criticism, such as Strange Things: The Malevolent North in Canadian Literature (1996). It was delivered as the Clarendon Lectures in English Literature at Oxford University in 1991. Despite the many transformations in Canadian literature — especially its predominantly urban orientation since Survival was published in 1972 — Atwood pursues her obsession with the wilderness theme in the Canadian imagination. She also examines images connected with the Canadian North, beginning with the image of cannibalism in relation to the doomed Franklin expedition.

In 1996, Atwood published her highly acclaimed novel Alias Grace, a historical novel about Grace Marks, an Irish Canadian maid who was convicted of killing her employers in 1843. Extensive archival research into the life and times of Marks led Atwood to revise her earlier perspective on her and to question Susanna Moodie's opinion in Life in the Clearings (which Atwood had adapted in her 1974 TV script, “The Servant Girl”). Atwood weaves together Marks's first-person fictional voice with 19th-century journalistic accounts and interviews, letters, traditional patchwork designs and poetry.

Atwood's novel raises important questions about truth-telling and representation. How can we ever know another human being? How can we know what exactly happened in the past? The novel rejects the certainty of a verdict on Marks's actions. Instead, Atwood plays one perspective of 19th-century human sciences against another, exposing the relations of power and the duplicity of language at the heart of our knowledge of law, history, literature and the media.

Alias Grace features one of Atwood’s most complex narrative and formal structures. It is also the most sophisticated articulation of her long-standing philosophical and political concerns with power, culture and identity. The book was nominated for the Booker Prize, and shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award, the Orange Prize (UK) and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (Ireland). The book won the coveted Scotiabank Giller Prize, as well as the Canadian Booksellers Association Author of the Year Award (1996). It also quickly became an international best-seller. In 2017, it was adapted by Sarah Polley into a six-part CBC/Netflix miniseries starring Sarah Gadon as Marks.

Atwood's renown grew in other fields and languages as well. Her Charles R. Bronfman lecture on the novel In Search of Alias Grace: On Writing Canadian Historical Fiction (1996) was published by the University of Ottawa in 1997. That same year, Atwood and her husband, Graeme Gibson, edited an anthology of Canadian short fiction, Desde El Invierno, for the Cuban Writers Union. Some of her teenaged writing was collected and edited by Kathy Chung and Sherrill Grace as A Quiet Game and Other Early Works (1997). Two Solicitudes: Conversations (1998) was a translation of Atwood’s radio dialogues with Quebec writer and publisher Victor-Lévy Beaulieu. It was first published in French as Deux sollicitudes: entretiens in 1996.

Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing (2002) considers the place and perception of the writer in society. A companion to her first collection of essays, Second Words (1982), appeared in 2004. It was called Moving Targets: Writing with Intent 1982-2004. It was followed by Writing with Intent: Essays, Reviews, Personal Prose 1983-2005 (2005).

Margaret Atwood, 1999.


The Blind Assassin was published in 2000, to great popular and critical acclaim. It won the Booker Prize and was shortlisted for both the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Orange Prize. Set in the first half of the 20th century, The Blind Assassin is a multi-layered narrative collage. Critics praised Atwood's deft handling of multiple voices, perspectives and plot lines. The work is complex, but always accessible.

Atwood returned to science fiction with her novel Oryx and Crake (2003). Like The Handmaid's Tale, the book portrays a dystopian future, with humanity brought to the verge of extinction by contemporary social trends and technologies. The book garnered high critical praise and accolades. It was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, the Booker Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award. The Year of the Flood (2009) is set in the same time and place, and the plots of the two novels converge. Lyrics from within The Year of the Flood were set to music by Orville Stoeber and released as a CD called Hymns of the God's Gardeners (2009). A documentary film of the book tour, In the Wake of the Flood, premiered in 2010.

In The Penelopiad (2005), Atwood invites readers to reconsider the story of Homer's Odyssey as she adopts the perspective and voice of Penelope, backed by a chorus of maidens. Her stage adaptation of The Penelopiad was premiered by England's Royal Shakespeare Company in July 2007. Atwood published two prose collections in 2006: a set of linked stories titled Moral Disorder; and The Tent, a series of very short stories and prose fragments. Her 2007 poetry collection, The Door, is filled with her customary wit and with reflections on the nature of responsibility. It was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for Poetry.

Atwood's writing, in all her chosen genres, has always been clearly connected to global and personal politics. In particular, she has focused on themes of environmental degradation, women's roles in society, and the power dynamics of social organization. Her non-fictional Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth (2008), originally delivered as the 2008 Massey Lectures, extends this concern with the social world to a study of the idea of debt throughout history — and, frequently, in literature.

Margaret Atwood, writer


More recently, and lightly, Atwood and British co-writer Naomi Alderman consider the uncanny and undead in the serialized comic-horror zombie novel The Happy Zombie Sunrise Home (2012–13).

Atwood’s biggest successes of the 2010s came from the renewed interest in her 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. A 10-part television series adaptation aired in the US and Canada beginning in April 2017. It was hailed as one of the most engrossing and timely television series of the year. Following the 2016 election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, many observers considered the 1985 novel more prescient than ever. Unlike the 1990 film adaption, in which Atwood had little creative involvement, she served as a consulting producer of the TV series. It went on to win eight 2017 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series.

In 2015, Atwood’s publisher, McClelland & Stewart requested pitches from graphic artists for a graphic novel based on The Handmaid’s Tale. Atwood selected Vancouver-based artist Renee Nault as the successful candidate. She worked with her closely to pare down the narrative into a “move-style” script. The graphic novel comprised more than 300 hand-painted pages. It was released on 26 March 2019 to positive reviews.

In November 2018, Atwood announced that she was completing a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. She revealed that The Testaments would be published in September 2019. The novel was so highly anticipated, Ron Charles of the Washington Post wrote, “This isn’t just the most anticipated novel of the year; it’s one of the most anticipated sequels of the modern age.” A week before it was even published, The Testaments was shortlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize. It awarded jointly to The Testaments and Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other in October 2019. It was only the third tie in the award’s 50-year history. The 79-year-old Atwood became the oldest author to be awarded the Booker. She also became the fourth author to win the prize twice.


Margaret Atwood is arguably Canada’s most honoured author. She has received numerous awards and accolades for her poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, as well as more than 20 honorary degrees. She was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1973 and was promoted to Companion in 1981. She received the Order of Ontario in 1990. She has won two Governor General’s Literary Awards (one for poetry, one for fiction), two Booker Prizes, two City of Toronto Book Awards, four Canadian Booksellers Association Awards, three Trillium Book Awards, the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and a National Arts Award.

She has also received a Molson Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Harvard Arts Medal, the Los Angeles Times Fiction Award, the Norwegian Order of Literary Merit, the London Literature Award, the Welsh Arts Council International Writer's Prize, the PEN Pinter Prize, the US National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature, and the Prince of Asturias Award for Letters (Spain). Atwood is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society, a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an Honorary Member of the American Society of Arts and Letters, and a Chevalier of France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Atwood has also received lifetime achievements awards from the Canadian Booksellers Association, the US National Book Critics Circle, and PEN Canada. In 2018, she received the Academy Board of Directors’ Tribute at the Canadian Screen Awards for “her commitments to the growth of the Canadian media industry.” In 2021, Canada Post issued a permanent commemorative stamp in her honour.

Selected Awards

Honorary Degrees

Selected Works of
Margaret Atwood

Twitter // Margaret Atwood

Tweets by @MargaretAtwood

Further Reading

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