Canadian author Margaret Atwood with her first italian publisher Mario Monti (Longanesi & C) in Milano, 1976 for the italian translation of "The Edible Woman", "La donna da mangiare"/ Photo © Mario Biondi / Creative Commons
This Tuesday November 18 marks the 75th birthday of author, poet, activist, and businesswoman Margaret Atwood. To celebrate, we've compiled a list of ten inspiring quotes from her books, poetry, and interviews.
At first glance, it may be hard to conceive of a full list of inspiring quotes from “the world’s most distinguished doomsday novelist.” Sure, her writing is fantastically galvanizing, but it seems ambitious to seek encouraging words from a writer who intentionally explores the darkest aspects of reality she can find; a writer who occasionally goes beyond reality to find darker spaces. Searching for optimism from the septuagenarian who, almost ironically, penned the phrase “potential has a shelf life,” seems futile. She doesn't even pull punches when discussing her own birthday:
“I was not pleased, during my childhood, to have been born in November, as there wasn't much inspiration for birthday party motifs. February children got hearts, May ones flowers, but what was there for me? A cake surrounded by withered leaves?”
But it is precisely her refusal to shy away from the grit of reality that makes Atwood’s words live beyond the page. Her words are determinedly not rooted in optimism. With a distinct combination of unflinching realism and piercing flashes of hope, her words resonate with the heft of truth. Regardless of topic -- from feminism to writing, economics to environmentalism -- Atwood has a way of expressing the perfect kernel of an idea in a way that feels like a call to arms.
For nearly six decades, no one has written and spoken with such clarity and wit as Atwood. So let's raise a book to the 75th birthday of the prolific writer, profound realist, and all around Twitter-maven, Margaret Atwood, and enjoy some of her most inspiring words. Thankfully for us, she has always had a lot to say.
1. “A word after a word after a word is power.” (Spelling, 1961)
2. “A voice is a human gift; It should be cherished and used, to utter fully human speech as possible.” (Interview, The Guardian, 2009)
3. “It is better to hope than to mope!” (The Year of the Flood, 2009)
4. “A ratio of failures is built into the process of writing. The wastebasket has evolved for a reason.” (Writing with Intent, 2013)
5. “Touch comes before sight, before speech. It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth.” (The Blind Assassin,2000)
6. “Within every dystopia there's a little utopia.” (Interview, New York Magazine, 2013)
7. “As soon as you have a language that has a past tense and a future tense you're going to say, 'Where did we come from, what happens next?' The ability to remember the past helps us plan the future.” (Interview, Telegraph, 2013)
8. “This above all, to refuse to be a victim.” (Surfacing, 1972)
9. “I tend to feel if people say they're going to do something, they will, if given the chance.” (Interview, The Atlantic, 2011)
10. “Sooner or later, I hate to break it to you, you're gonna die, so how do you fill in the space between here and there? It's yours. Seize your space.” (Interview, The Guardian, 2013)