Today, the organizers of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize announced that Margaret Atwood will receive the 2020 Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award, named in honor of the eponymous U.S. diplomat. The prize comes with a Michael Bashaw sculpture and $10,000. Previous winners include Marilynne Robinson, Elie Wiesel, and Colm Tóibín.
Atwood is the author of more than fifty books, which include fiction, poetry, essays, and graphic novels. Her most famous novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, explores such salient issues as misogyny, injustice, and totalitarianism. Atwood has won the Booker Prize twice—for The Blind Assassin in 2000 and for The Testaments, her sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale in 2019.
On receiving the award, Atwood said: “Writers are limited in their range—in what they are able to write about—whereas readers are not. Readers can read across the whole sweep of human experience—as far back in the past as they can see, as far afield as they can reach, as far into the future as it is possible to imagine. The closer we are to a person, the psychiatrists tell us, the harder it is to actually murder them. Perhaps that is the way in which reading is conducive to peace: it brings us closer together. If I feel I know you, understand you, and like you, why would I wish to make war on you? That, at any rate, is our hope. We could certainly use a little hope, right about now.”