Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Margaret Atwood Awarded 2016 PEN Pinter Freedom to Write, Freedom to Read Prize

Canadian poet, novelist and environmental activist Margaret Atwood has been awarded the 2016 PEN Pinter Prize. The judges praised her political activism, calling the author an ‘exemplary public intellectual’.

The PEN Pinter Prize was established in 2009 by English PEN, in the memory of Nobel-Laureate playwright Harold Pinter, to champion freedom of expression in writing. The prize 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’.

English Pen campaigns to defend writers and readers in the UK and around the world whose human right to freedom of expression is at risk. They work to remove inequalities, where they exist, which prevent people’s enjoyment and learning from literature. As well as matching writers with marginalised groups such as people in prisons in the UK, in refugee or detention centres and young people in disadvantaged areas, opening minds to reading and creative writing.

Margaret Atwood was chosen by this year’s judges Vicky Featherstone, Zia Haider Rahman, Peter Stothard, Antonia Fraser and President of English PEN and Chair of Judges, Maureen Freely. Reflecting on Margaret Atwood’s life, Maureen Freely, 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.
Margaret will receive her award at a public event at the British Library on the evening of Thursday 13 October, where she will deliver an address and announce the winner of the International Writer of Courage award.

Margaret said she was humbled to receive the award, reflecting on her own time with Harold Pinter she said “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.”

Antonia Fraser, Harold Pinter’s widow, praised Atwood saying “Harold admired Margaret Atwood in three ways, as a writer, a campaigner and a person. He would be especially delighted by her generous response to this award.”

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