Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Margaret Atwood wins $1M Prize

Margaret Atwood has been named one of this year's recipients of the Dan David Prize, an annual award that "recognizes and encourages innovative and interdisciplinary research that cuts across traditional boundaries and paradigms. It aims to foster universal values of excellence, creativity, justice, democracy and progress and to promote the scientific, technological and humanistic achievements that advance and improve our world." And yes, it is worth 1 million dollars. I am not surprised that she had won this award, but I am surprised at the reason why: "Her work enabled, for the first time, the emergence of a defined Canadian identity, while exploring both national and transnational issues, such as colonization, feminism, structures of political power and oppression, and the violation and exploitation of nature." I can't disagree with this synopsis of her career, but I am shocked that another country has recognized the fact that defining "Canadian identity" is a whole lot of work and has only just happened in our lifetime. We all know it's true - look at the Nobel Prize winners for literature, for example. Not a single Canadian. While the Man Booker and Orange Prizes have recognized Canadians a little more frequently, we are still relatively unknown on the world literature stage. So, for Ms. Atwood to be honoured for her work in conveying messages of feminism, ecology, and "political power and oppression," is perfectly understandable. But to be also honoured for her role in constructing a Canadian identity through literature, that is a welcome surprise.

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