Marian Engel 1933 - 1985

Canadian Novelist

Marian Engel (née Passmore) was born in Toronto and grew up in the Ontario cities of Galt, Sarnia, Hamilton, Brantford and Port Arthur. The many moves were a result of her father teaching in schools across southwestern Ontario. She studied at Mc Master University (B.A.) in Hamilton and McGill University, Montreal, Quebec. (M.A.) and taught briefly in Montreal and Cyprus.

She was a passionate activist for the rights of Canadian writers both on the national and international stage. When the Writer’s Union of Canada was established in 1973, she was the first chair and held meetings at her home in Toronto.

Marian Engel was married to CBC broadcaster and mystery novel writer Howard Engel, with whom she had two children. For a brief time, they lived at 116 Pembroke. They eventually divorced.

Bear, paperback cover

In 1968 her first book No Clouds of Glory was published. Her most famous novel Bear (1976) won the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction. At the time the book was called the most controversial novel ever written in Canada.

Her writings focused on the day to day experiences of women, their search for happiness and self-fulfillment. Engel herself thought of her writing as an exploration of “how you deal with an imperfect world when you have been brought up to look for perfection.”

Marian Engel has been described as a writer’s writer, and has been truly respected and loved by a generation of Canadian authors.




  • Governor General’s Award for English-language fiction, 1976
  • Officer of the Order of Canada
  • Toronto Book Award, 1982
  • Toronto YWCA’s Women of Distinction in Arts

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