Marian Engel's picture

Marian Engel

Canada (1933 - 1985)

Canadian novelist, short-story and children's fiction writer, Marian Engel was a passionate activist for the national and international writers cause.

She was the first chair of the Writers Union of Canada (197374) and helped found the Public Lending Right Commission. From 1975-1977, she served on the City of Toronto Book Award Committee (an award she won in 1981 for Lunatic Villas) and the Canadian Book and Periodical Development Council.
In 1982 she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

She married Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio producer Howard Engel in 1962 and, upon their return to Toronto from England in 1964, began to raise a family--twins William Lucas Passmore and Charlotte Helen Arabella--and to pursue a writing career. Marian and Howard separated in 1975 and divorced in 1977.

Engel was writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta (19771978) and at the University of Toronto (19801982).

Her first novel, No Clouds of Glory, was published in 1968. She wrote two children's books: Adventures of Moon Bay Towers (1974) and My name is not Odessa Yarker (1977). Her most famous and controversial novel was Bear(1976), a tale of erotic love between a librarian and a bear, for which she won the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction in 1976.

From 1965 to her death in 1985 she corresponded with literary peers and friends such as Hugh MacLennan, Robertson Davies, Dennis Lee, Margaret Atwood, Timothy Findley, Alice Munro, Margaret Laurence, Matt Cohen, Robert Weaver, Graeme Gibson and more. Some of this correspondence can be found in Dear Hugh, Dear Marian: The MacLennan-Engel Correspondence (1995) and Marian Engel: Life in Letters (2004).

After her death in 1985, the Writer's Development Trust of Canada instituted the Marian Engel Award, which was presented annually to a woman writer in mid-career. The Engel and Findley Awards are no longer awarded separately, but were combined into the new Writers Trust Notable Author Award as of 2008.