Margaret Atwood Interview: The Woods Inside Me

“I was carried into the woods in a packsack when I was six months old.” Canadian Man Booker Prize winning author Margaret Atwood here describes her special relationship to the woods, and her first overwhelming meeting with the city.

The original meaning of the last name ‘Atwood’ is ‘of the woods’, and Atwood did indeed grow up in the forest. Her first meeting with the city was mind-boggling, and she was afraid of things such as vacuum cleaners and flush toilets – simply not understanding where things disappeared to. Her upbringing in the woods also meant that she was never “properly socialized” and felt somewhat untrained in understanding human interaction. This led her to view the world anthropologically, taking in her surroundings with curiosity and mystification: “I was always looking at them and thinking: That’s a very odd thing to do.”

Atwood still returns to the forest, where she likes to visit the different layers of it to explore its wide-ranging vegetation and wildlife. These different layers seem to represent the layers of her homeland Canada: “You can never say it’s Canadian and leave it at that.” Canada has never been an imperial power, never been “the big cheese”, and this, Atwood feels, has provided many Canadians with a healthy dose of irony and humour: “They have a reprehensible tendency to make fun of everything – themselves included.”

Margaret Eleanor Atwood (b. 1939) is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist and environmentalist activist. She has been shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize five times, winning once for ‘The Blind Assassin’ (2000), and was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2001. Furthermore, she is a founder of the Writers’ Trust of Canada, a non-profit literary organization that seeks to encourage Canada’s writing community. Among her novels are ‘The Edible Woman’ (1969), ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ (1985), ‘The Robber Bride’ (1994),‘The Blind Assassin’ (2000), ‘Oryx and Crake’ (2003), ‘The Year of the Flood’ (2009) and ‘MaddAddam’ (2013) – the last three forming a dystopian trilogy. While she is best known for her work as a novelist, she is also the author of children’s literature and has published several books of poetry inspired by myths and fairy tales.

Margaret Atwood was interviewed by Synne Rifbjerg at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark in August 2014.

Camera: Mathias Nyholm
Edited by: Sonja Strange
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015

Supported by Nordea-fonden


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