Novelist Attwood pays tribute to Seamus Heaney

Canadian-born author interviewed at Dún Laoghaire festival ahead of publication of final chapter in trilogy

Seamus Heaney photographed writing at home in Sandymount in 2009. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Seamus Heaney photographed writing at home in Sandymount in 2009. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times



Award-winning novelist, poet and environmentalist Margaret Atwood has paid homage to Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, who died last week.

“I join you in your feelings about Seamus Heaney, a wonderful man and poet and we’ll all miss him very much,” she told a sold-out crowd at the Pavilion Theatre Dún Laoghaire.

The Canadian-born author, who was being interviewed by historian Catriona Crowe as part of the Mountains to Sea Festival, discussed her new book MaddAddam, the long-awaited finale of the trilogy which began with Oryx and Crake in 2003 and The Year of the Flood 2004.

Attwood also revealed an Irish connection in her new publication.

“The figure of the mad scientist was invented in Dublin by no other than Jonathan Swift, ” she told the captivated audience.

“I challenge you to find another mad scientist figure, one that predates those in book three.

“It’s my belief that he is the originator of the mad scientist figures that populate 19th century fiction and 20th century films.”

Atwood’s placid and wise demeanour carried the crowd through fascinating tales of genetic splicing and dystopian scenarios featured in many of her books.

She said the inspiration for the trilogy began on an Australian birdwatching trip which made her question the basics of life and what the core of the human condition is.

Attwood also cast a critical eye on the film version of one of her most lauded works, A Handmaid’s Tale.

“Not with the book but I recieved death threats when the movie came out,” she said.

“The acting was good but some of the choices I wouldn’t have made. For example if you were hiding from a dystopian regime would you do it in a bright red caravan on the top of a mountain?”

While the ideas of her characters living under an oppressive regime while wearing a tutu also bother her, she plans attend Royal Winnepeg’s Ballet adaptation of her story when it premiers next October.