Canadians claim Kiwi Booker Prize nominee author

SHORT-LISTED: New Zealand author Eleanor Catton
SHORT-LISTED: New Zealand author Eleanor Catton

Auckland author Eleanor Catton is surprised she's being touted as "Canadian", after being named a finalist in that country's Governor General's English-language fiction prize.

"Canadian Man Booker Prize contender Eleanor Catton is in the running for another prestigious honour", the Vancouver Sun said, with other Canadian news outlets on the same theme.

Catton, 28, the youngest writer in history to make the short list for the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction, was born in Canada while her father did a doctorate at the University of Western Ontario. She lived there until she was six.

She grew up in Christchurch and completed her writing masters at Wellington's Victoria University. She teaches creative writing at the Manukau Institute of Technology.

"I feel very much a New Zealander," she told Fairfax Media.

Her Canadian publishers entered her novel, The Luminaries, a gold rush-era murder mystery set in Hokitika, in the C$25,000 (NZ$29,000) Governor General's prize, when they discovered she was born in Canada.

"It was kind of up to them, really," Catton said.

"In a funny way, I think New Zealand and Canada are not so dissimilar, we're both bicultural nations with an extremely powerful neighbour. I don't think the sensibilities of the two countries are too different."

Still, being claimed as Canadian had come as something of a surprise "because The Luminaries is such a New Zealand book. It's set in New Zealand, and it's concerned with New Zealand identity in lots of ways."

The only other nominated book Catton had read off the Canadian list was Colin McAdam's A Beautiful Truth, which is set in Vermont, across the border in the United States.

"Maybe it doesn't really matter where a book is set. I don't think we're restricted to write about the places where we're from, or to write in the tradition of the countries where we hold citizenship."

The Canadian winner will be announced in Toronto on November 13.

The NZ$97,800 Man Booker is considered the world's most prestigious literary award.

Catton was due to leave this weekend for the award dinner in London on October 15.