She has spun tales of dystopia through her many works of speculative fiction, some of which have found new life in recent television productions. Canadian author Margaret Atwood, best known for her 1985 classic The Handmaid's Tale, will appear at the University at Buffalo Friday evening for its program, "Humanities to the Rescue."
Atwood has written 16 novels, eight works of short fiction, eight children's books, one graphic novel and numerous more works of poetry and non-fiction.
She readily acknowledged in her telephone interview with WBFO that it's her 1985 classic, The Handmaid's Tale, that the audience will want to talk about. It's perhaps her best-known work and, in the current American social and political climate, many consider it to have renewed relevance.
But does she consider it her most important work?
"You can't ever tell that and the author is the last person who should make judgment like that, because it isn't finally the author who decides that," she said.
Atwood has written numerous tales of dystopian societies in speculative fiction, but she has stated in past interviews that those stories are not entirely created from scratch, but rather are based on events which have already happened in history.
The Handmaid's Tale has also been deemed by many to be an important feminist work. But it's not necessarily so, said the author.
"There are 50 shades of feminism," she said. "You really have to specify which one you're talking about. If you mean it's a work in which the treatment of women is central, then yes it is. If you mean it's a work in which all men are having a grand old time and all women are not, then it's not true because it's totalitarianism. And when you look at totalitarianism through the ages, you'd see in fact that quite a few men have a bad time."
Atwood discussed with WBFO her works which have been recently produced as a television series. The Handmaid's Tale is scheduled to begin its second season in April on the on-demand video platform Hulu. Last year, her 1996 novel Alias Grace was produced and broadcast by CBC Television and later on Netflix.
She also discussed the manuscript she wrote and submitted for the Future Library Project, a program in Norway that will collect books from 100 different authors, beginning with Atwood in 2014, and withhold their release until the year 2114.
Atwood was asked if it bothers her that no one in her lifetime, nor for generations to follow, will get to read and enjoy her work.
"I think it's kind of wonderful. Either you were the kind of child who buried things in the backyard hoping that somebody would dig them up, or you are not that child," she said. "I was certainly a burier of things."