For more than forty years, Margaret Atwood has been a published author, well known for the intricacies of her poetry, the power of her fiction, and the illumination of her literary criticism. As her reputation has grown steadily in international circles, she has produced more than forty books that have been translated into more than forty languages. But she has rooted most of her writing in her own country of Canada. She is, above all else, Canadian.
The early years
Born in the city of Ottawa, Canada's capital, on 18 November 1939, Atwood spent her early years in wintry Ottawa and in northern Quebec, where her father, a biologist, pursued his entomological studies. Moving to Toronto in 1946, her parents continued to take young Atwood and her older brother to the northern wilderness in the summers. “I didn't spend a full year in school until I was 11,” Atwood recalls. “Americans usually find this account of my childhood - woodsy, isolated, nomadic - less surprising than do Canadians: after all, it's what the glossy magazine ads say Canada is supposed to be like.”
Atwood’s parents are from Nova Scotia, and her extended family lives there: “The orientation of my entire family was scientific rather than literary . . . So while the society around me, in the fifties, was very bent on having girls collect china, become cheerleaders, and get married, my parents were from a different culture. They just believed that it was incumbent on me to become as educated as possible.”2 Her parents were great readers, and though they did not encourage her to become a writer, “they gave me a more important kind of support; that is, they expected me to make use of my intelligence and abilities, and they did not pressure me into getting married.”