The Handmaid's Tale author Margaret Atwood has won the Pinter Prize


Margaret Atwood has been awarded the 2016 PEN Pinter Prize, following in the footsteps of winners including Salman Rushdie, Tom Stoppard and Carol Ann Duffy.

The Canadian poet, novelist and environmental activist - famous for books including The Handmaid's Tale and MaddAddam - said she was "humbled" to receive the award.

Margaret Atwood (photo credit Jean Malek)

The PEN Pinter Prize was established in 2009 in memory of Nobel laureate playwright Harold Pinter.

It is awarded annually to a writer who, in the words of Pinter's Nobel Prize in Literature speech, casts an "unflinching, unswerving" gaze upon the world with "fierce intellectual determination" to reveal the truth about our lives and society.

This year, the prize was open for the first time to writers from the Republic of Ireland and the Commonwealth as well as the UK.

Harold Pinter in 2007

Margaret, 76, said: "I am humbled to be the recipient of the 2016 PEN Pinter 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.

"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."

Harold's widow Antonia Fraser 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 novelist will accept the award and deliver an address at the British Library on October 13.

Margaret Atwood

At the public event, she will also announce her co-winner, the 2016 International Writer of Courage, selected from PEN's shortlist. Previous winners include Raif Badawi, Mazen Darwish and Iryna Khalip.

She will also be presented with a cartoon by Martin Rowson of herself alongside all the previous winners in a cricket scene, as Harold was a huge cricket fan.

Martin will draw Margaret alongside James Fenton (2015), Rushdie (2014), Stoppard (2013), Duffy (2012), David Hare (2011), Hanif Kureishi (2010) and Tony Harrison (2009).

This year's judges were Vicky Featherstone, Zia Haider Rahman, Peter Stothard, Antonia Fraser and president of English PEN and chair of judges Maureen Freely.

Maureen said: "In a profession dominated by careerists who are content to tend to their own gardens, Margaret Atwood is the shining exception.

"She does not just stand up for her principles: in novel after novel, she has put them to the test. What she does as a campaigner has only served to deepen her work as a writer of fiction. She is an inspiration to us all."