NZ writer Catton on Booker shortlist

LIFE-CHANGING MOMENT: "You need to read so much to learn your craft," said Eleanor Catton, author of The Luminaries.
LIFE-CHANGING MOMENT: "You need to read so much to learn your craft," said Eleanor Catton, author of The Luminaries.

New Zealand writer Eleanor Catton has been short-listed for the prestigious Man Booker Prize for fiction with her novel The Luminaries.

The author is one of six writers chosen from the long-list of 13. 

Catton, 27, was the youngest writer on the longlist of 13 finalists chosen in July.

The other short-list members are Jim Crace, NoViolet Bulawayo, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ruth Ozeki and Colm Toibin.

The winner will be announced on October 15, when he or she will win the equivalent of almost NZ$100,000.

Each of the six authors will receive a cheque for £2,500 (NZ$4889) and a hand-bound edition of their book.

Speaking from the UK where she is currently promoting the book, Catton said she thought Kiwi literature was in a very strong place now.

"I am proud that this shortlist will mean many more people around the world will have a chance to visit New Zealand, imaginatively speaking, and spend awhile in our historical past," she said.

"I'm especially excited about the writers of my generation and I am happy that, whatever the outcome of the prize, the shortlisting will help to raise the profile of New Zealand literature elsewhere."

She was born in Canada and grew up in Christchurch. In 2007, she graduated from Victoria University's International Institute of Modern Letters creative writing course.

The institute's director, Damien Wilkins, said:"There's the personal glory for Ellie and for her book, which is all thoroughly deserved, and then there's what can happen in the wake of individual success - other young New Zealand writers will see possibilities and risk things.

"Above all, Ellie is a risk-taker, because in lots of ways The Luminaries is a mad enterprise. We need more mad enterprises."

The award dinner in London next month will be her first a black-tie event, Catton said. "I'll have to buy a frock."

Her New Zealand publisher, Fergus Barrowman of Victoria University Press, said he loved the book.

"I'm very happy that so many more readers will now discover the pleasures it has to offer them."

The Luminaries is a 19th Century West Coast gold-rush murder story. It has received glowing reviews both here and overseas.

Wellington writer Lloyd Jones was also shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2007 for Mister Pip.

Last year's winner was Hilary Mantel with Bring up the Bodies. 

The only New Zealander to win the Booker Prize was Keri Hulme - in 1985 with her novel The Bone People.

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