Indeed, Americans like to think of him as "the Saudi Warren Buffet", the multimillionaire investor who last week sold his memoirs for $7m. And I slept like a baby in my tent, because I knew that they were standing guard, turn and turn about, all night.". Questions were asked last week about a series of full-page broadsheet advertisements promoting a biography of Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud, the American-educated nephew of the late Saudi King Fahd, who is rumoured to give away more than $100m a year. They simply knew how to chase off the bears, and what to do next.
These days, the polar bears in the region are hungrier than ever, "because of global warming. The shore ice, which they usually go on to hunt seals - that's diminishing." So those ravenous predators approached the camp; not once, but five times Luckily, "we had three excellent hunters with us. This summer, the writer who recalls that "I spent a lot of my childhood without electricity" worked at an Inuit sewing, healing and literacy camp on the treeless side of the Canadian far north. In 1972, her landmark guide to Canadian literature carried the title Survival; 30 years later, the harassed vagrant "Snowman" stumbled through a mutant-infested genetic wasteland left by ecological disaster and botched science in the novel Oryx and Crake.
Times are perennially tough in Atwood territory, with the graces of civilisation often a thin veneer waiting for a lethal crack from without - or, generally, from within. They can't see very well but they have a very acute sense of smell." We have been warned. Predation and survival, the dance of the hunters and the hunted, runs like a red thread through the explorations of human nature, and non-human nature, that have made Atwood one of the most widely admired and avidly followed writers at work in the world today. It's not every day that one leaves an interview with a life-saving wilderness tip to impart.