Entertainment & Arts

Margaret Atwood wins 2016 Pen Pinter Prize

Margaret Atwood Image copyright Liam Sharp
Image caption Atwood is the third novelist to win the award

Margaret Atwood has won this year's Pen Pinter Prize, which celebrates champions of free speech.

The Canadian novelist and poet is well known for her environmental campaigning.

Judges praised Atwood's political activism, and described her as an "exemplary public intellectual".

Atwood will formally receive the award at the British Library on 13 October, where she will also deliver an address.

The judges said she was a "consistent supporter of political causes", adding: "Her work championing environmental concerns comes well within the scope of human rights… she is a very important figure in terms of the principles of Pen and of Harold Pinter."

Atwood said she was "humbled" to be the recipient of this year's prize.

"I knew Harold Pinter and worked with him - he wrote the scenario for the film version of The Handmaid's Tale, back in 1989 - and his burning sense of injustice at human rights abuses and the repression of artists was impressive even then," she said.

"Any winner of such an award is a stand-in for the thousands of people around the world who speak and act against such abuses. I am honoured to be this year's stand-in."

Antonia Fraser, Harold Pinter's widow, said: "Harold admired Margaret Atwood in three ways, as a writer, a campaigner and a person. He would be especially delighted by her generous response to this award."

The prize was established in 2009 in memory of playwright and Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter, who had died the previous year.

It is given annually to a writer who shows a "fierce intellectual determination... to define the real truth of our lives and our societies".

The winner also helps to decide, together with the judging panel, the winner of the International Writer of Courage prize - which recognises a non-British writer who has faced persecution.

Atwood will announce her international co-winner when she receives her own award at the October ceremony.

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