Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood

The Woods Inside Me

“I was carried into the woods in a packsack when I was six months old.” Canadian Man Booker Prize winning author Margaret Atwood here describes her special relationship to the woods, and her first overwhelming meeting with the city.

The original meaning of the last name ‘Atwood’ is ‘of the woods’, and Atwood did indeed grow up in the forest. Her first meeting with the city was mind-boggling, and she was afraid of things such as vacuum cleaners and flush toilets – simply not understanding where things disappeared to. Her upbringing in the woods also meant that she was never “properly socialized” and felt somewhat untrained in understanding human interaction. This led her to view the world anthropologically, taking in her surroundings with curiosity and mystification: “I was always looking at them and thinking: That’s a very odd thing to do.”

Atwood still returns to the forest, where she likes to visit the different layers of it to explore its wide-ranging vegetation and wildlife. These different layers seem to represent the layers of her homeland Canada: “You can never say it’s Canadian and leave it at that.” Canada has never been an imperial power, never been “the big cheese”, and this, Atwood feels, has provided many Canadians with a healthy dose of irony and humour: “They have a reprehensible tendency to make fun of everything – themselves included.”

Margaret Eleanor Atwood (b. 1939) is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist and environmentalist activist. She has been shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize five times, winning once for ‘The Blind Assassin’ (2000), and was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2001. Furthermore, she is a founder of the Writers’ Trust of Canada, a non-profit literary organization that seeks to encourage Canada’s writing community. Among her novels are ‘The Edible Woman’ (1969), ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ (1985), ‘The Robber Bride’ (1994),‘The Blind Assassin’ (2000), ‘Oryx and Crake’ (2003), ‘The Year of the Flood’ (2009) and ‘MaddAddam’ (2013) – the last three forming a dystopian trilogy. While she is best known for her work as a novelist, she is also the author of children’s literature and has published several books of poetry inspired by myths and fairy tales.

Margaret Atwood was interviewed by Synne Rifbjerg at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark in August 2014.

Camera: Mathias Nyholm
Edited by: Sonja Strange
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015

Supported by Nordea-fonden

  • Jørgen Leth & Alex Da Corte

    The Perfect Monster

    Watch the celebrated Danish poet and film director, Jørgen Leth (b. 1937), and a sparkling star on the art scene, Alex Da Corte (b. 1980), talk about the latter’s shot-for-shot remake of – and homage to – Leth’s iconic film ‘The Perfect Human’.

  • Riad Sattouf

    Advice to Young Cartoonists

    Watch the acclaimed cartoonist Riad Sattouf draw while sharing his advice for colleagues: “Be careful with advice, it’s not always good. Find your own way of expressing yourself, everything is acceptable, there’s no one good way to draw or not draw.”

  • Jean-Marc Bustamante

    The Notion of Landscape

    “I think art is not very useful, it’s a question of what you feel.” Watch the acclaimed French artist and photographer Jean-Marc Bustamante, who merges photography and painting, and whose starting point is always the concept of landscape.

  • John Giorno

    A Visit to the Poet

    “Poetry never dies. You can’t kill poetry.” We called on John Giorno – one of the most influential figures in contemporary performance poetry – in his legendary home on the Bowery in New York, to talk about the innate freedom and possibilities of poetry.

  • John Giorno

    Inside William Burroughs' Bunker

    Step inside ‘The Bunker’ in New York, the windowless former apartment of legendary writer William S. Burroughs, and let yourself be guided around – from Burroughs’ typewriter to his shooting target – by its current resident, iconic poet John Giorno.

  • Marina Abramović & Ulay

    A Living Door of the Museum

    Standing naked in the main entrance of a museum, facing each other while the audience passes sideways through the small space. Legendary performance artists Marina Abramović and Ulay share the story behind their poetic work ‘Imponderabilia’.

  • Wang Shu

    Architecture is a Job for God

    The Chinese architect Wang Shu’s buildings – a crossover between traditional Chinese culture and large-scale modern architecture – have earned him prestigious awards. “Democracy means a really diverse society,” says the architect in this inspiring interview.

  • Margrethe Odgaard

    Colour Diary of New York

    Becoming more aware of your surroundings can “open a new dimension inside as well as outside yourself.” Meet award-winning Danish designer Margrethe Odgaard who has trained herself to register the world through colours.

  • Nick Cave

    The World is my Skin

    Have you ever wished that you could put on a suit which would open up the imagination and take you to the world of your dreams? In this video artist Nick Cave presents his wearable sculptures, the 'Soundsuits', made from discarded everyday materials.

  • Gerhard Richter

    In Art We Find Beauty and Comfort

    “I don’t really believe art has power. But it does have value. Those who take an interest in it find solace in art. It gives them huge comfort.” Gerhard Richter, one of the greatest painters of our time, discusses beauty in the era of the internet.

  • Colson Whitehead

    I Have to Know the Destination

    “I became a writer once I realised no one liked my stuff.” Watch Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey’s favourite author, Pulitzer Prize-winning Colson Whitehead, on how rejections of his first stab at a novel made him realize that he wanted to pursue writing.

  • 11 Artists

    First Encounter with Art

    “That was the beginning of my film and photography career – my first image ended up under the Russian soldier’s boot.” Watch Jonas Mekas, Laurie Anderson, Paul Auster, Gerhard Richter and 7 other acclaimed artists on how they began their career.