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Margaret Atwood to receive 2020 U.S. Literary Peace Prize

Margaret Atwood (Shannon Ross)

Margaret Atwood has been named recipient of the 2020 Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award, organizers of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize announced today.

The award, which recognizes authors for their complete body of work, is named after Holbrooke, a U.S. diplomat who played an instrumental role in negotiating the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war in Bosnia. It is the only international literary peace prize awarded in the U.S., honouring writers whose work uses the power of literature to foster peace, justice, and understanding. Past recipients include Elie Wiesel, Marilynne Robinson, and Louise Erdrich.

On receiving the award, Atwood said in a statement: “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.”

Although the prize was originally scheduled to be presented in late October, the gala has been postponed until June 27, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.