Eleanor Catton

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
Eleanor (Ellie) Catton
Eleanor Catton.jpg
Eleanor Catton in 2012
Born (1985-09-24) 24 September 1985 (age 36)
London, Ontario, Canada
Occupation Novelist
Nationality New Zealand
Notable works The Luminaries
Notable awards 2013 Man Booker Prize

Eleanor Catton MNZM (born 24 September 1985) is a Canadian-born New Zealand author. Her second novel, The Luminaries, won the 2013 Man Booker Prize. In January 2015, she created a short-lived media storm in New Zealand when she made comments in an interview in India in which she was critical of "neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture." [2]

Early life

Catton was born in Canada where her New Zealand father was a graduate student completing his doctorate at the University of Western Ontario. She grew up in Christchurch after her family returned to New Zealand when she was six years old; she spent a year living in Leeds where she attended Lawnswood School. She referred to this experience as "amazing, but a real eye opener" due to the toughness of the environment.[3][4] She attended Burnside High School, studied English at the University of Canterbury, and completed a Master's degree in Creative Writing at The Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington.[citation needed] Catton is related to author Bruce Catton.[5]


Catton's 2008 debut novel, The Rehearsal, was written as her Master's thesis[6] and deals with reactions to an affair between a male teacher and a girl at his secondary school. That year, she was awarded a fellowship to the Iowa Writers' Workshop.[7]

In 2009 she was described by the British Daily Mail as "this year's golden girl of fiction".[8] In 2011, she was the Ursula Bethell Writer in Residence at the University of Canterbury.[9]

2013–present: The Luminaries and Man Booker Prize

Catton's second novel, The Luminaries, was published in 2013. The novel is set on the goldfields of New Zealand in 1866. It was shortlisted for and subsequently won the 2013 Man Booker Prize making Catton, at the age of 28, the youngest author ever to win the Booker.[10][11] She was previously, at the age of 27, the youngest author ever to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.[10]

At 832 pages, The Luminaries is the longest work to win the prize in its 45-year history.[11] The chair of the judges, Robert Macfarlane commented "It's a dazzling work. It's a luminous work. It is vast without being sprawling." Catton was presented with the prize by the Duchess of Cornwall on 15 October 2013 at Guildhall.[11]

In November 2013 Catton was awarded the Canadian Governor General's Literary Award for fiction for The Luminaries.[12] In January 2014 it was announced that Catton would be awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Literature in May at Victoria University of Wellington,[13] where she has studied. On 18 March 2014 she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature.[14]


During an interview at the Jaipur Literary Festival in January 2015, Catton said in passing that the governments of Australia, Canada and New Zealand were countries led by[15]

Prime Minister John Key said he was disappointed at Catton's lack of respect for his Government and claimed she was aligned with the Green Party. The next day he said her views should not be given any more credence than those of the Mad Butcher or Richie McCaw[17] although both of them were offered a knighthood by John Key. McCaw turned the honour down.[18]

On 16 December 2011 on air RadioLive host Sean Plunket called Catton a traitor and an "ungrateful hua".[19] The Taxpayers' Union also released a media statement showing Catton had received around $50,000 in Creative New Zealand support over her career. Jordan Williams of the Taxpayers' Union argued that: "if Ms Catton isn't thankful for the support by the New Zealand Government while she wrote The Luminaries, maybe she should use some of the substantial royalties to pay the money back".[20]

In a blog post responding to the affair, Catton commented that her reported remarks were a condensed part of a larger interview, and she was puzzled why her comment at the Jaipur festival had generated such controversy: "I’ve been speaking freely to foreign journalists ever since I was first published overseas, and have criticised the Key government, neo-liberal values, and our culture of anti-intellectualism many times."[21] She goes on to say:

The criticism of Catton caused a media storm, including the publication of numerous cartoons,[22] and was described by one commentator as 'Cattongate'.[23] In an opinion piece, Bryce Edwards quoted numerous commentators who supported Catton's right to express her views. He said the 'Catton controversy' reflected the hollowness of public debate in New Zealand, and of the media and politics, and is increasingly of concern to some academics, researchers, and journalists. He also said that for some people, the saga also relates to the more recent Dirty Politics scandal.[23]

Personal life

Catton lives in Auckland with her husband, American expatriate author and poet Steven Toussaint, and teaches creative writing at the Manukau Institute of Technology.[24][25] They married in January 2016.[26]


In 2014 she used her winnings from the NZ Post Book Award to establish the Horoeka/Ravenswood Grant. The grant offers a stipend to emerging writers with the aim of "the means and opportunity not to write, but to read, and to share what they learn through their reading with their colleagues in the arts".[27] Recipients have included Amy Brown, Craig Cliff and Richard Meros.

Awards and honours



Other published works

  • Short stories published in Best New Zealand Fiction Vol. 5 (2008), Penguin Book of Contemporary New Zealand Short Stories (August 2009), and Granta (106, Summer 2009).


  1. "Eleanor Catton". Woman's Hour. 9 September 2013. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 18 January 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Paul Little: Key and Plunket prove Catton's point, New Zealand Herald, 1 February 2015
  3. Tivnan, Tom (15 October 2013). "Eleanor Catton Interview". The Bookseller. Retrieved 17 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Cochrane, Kira (7 September 2013). "Eleanor Catton: 'I'm strongly influenced by box-set TV drama. At last the novel has found its screen equivalent'". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 19 September 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Blackstock, Russell (14 September 2014). "Luminaries shine in Catton's family tree". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 22 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Clarkson, Annie (4 August 2009). "'I am still astonished and a little bit suspicious that The Rehearsal has even been published' – An Interview with Eleanor Catton | Bookmunch". Bookmunch. Retrieved 19 September 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. McEvoy, Mark (14 September 2013). "Interview: Eleanor Catton". Brisbane Times. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 19 September 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. McKay, Carla (21 July 2009). "Eleanor Catton: The Rehearsal". Daily Mail. DMG Media. Retrieved 19 September 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Ursula Bethell Residency in Creative Writing". Retrieved 16 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 Morris, Linda (11 September 2013). "Eleanor Catton youngest author ever shortlisted for Booker". The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 19 September 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Masters, Tim (15 October 2013). "Man Booker Prize: Eleanor Catton becomes youngest winner with The Luminaries". BBC News. Retrieved 15 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Eleanor Catton honoured with Canadian literary award. 3 News NZ. 15 November 2013.
  13. "Victoria University to confer honorary doctorate on Eleanor Catton". Victoria University of Wellington. 28 January 2014. Retrieved 28 January 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "How Catton's life changed after Man Booker win". Stuff.co.nz. 18 March 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Deborah Hill Cone: Catton success illuminated nation, New Zealand Herald, 2 February 2015
  16. Paul Little: Key and Plunket prove Catton's point, New Zealand Herald, 1 February 2015
  17. Eleanor Catton has 'no particular great insights into politics', says John Key, New Zealand Herald, 2 February 2015
  18. Richie McCaw turns down his knighthood
  19. "Catton a 'traitor', says Plunket". Otago Daily Times. 28 January 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Kiwis have been generous to Catton, says Taxpayers' Union". The New Zealand Herald. 30 January 2015. Retrieved 2 February 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. 21.0 21.1 Catton, Eleanor. "A Statement". eleanor-catton.com. Retrieved 2 February 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Cartoons & images of Cattongate, Bryce Edwards
  23. 23.0 23.1 Bryce Edwards: The politics of Eleanor Catton and public debate, New Zealand Herald, 3 February 2015
  24. "Eleanor Catton's success is written in the stars". The Herald. Newsquest. 7 September 2013. Retrieved 19 September 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Higgins, Charlotte (16 October 2013). "Eleanor Catton: 'Male writers get asked what they think, women what they feel'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 February 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Luminaries author marries long-time partner, NZ Herald, 3 January 2016
  27. Flood, Alison (2 September 2014). "Eleanor Catton sets up grant to give writers 'time to read'". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 August 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Adam Award Winners
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 "Contributor information from Granta magazine".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. Betty Trask Award Winners
  31. NZ Society of Authors Awards
  32. "Guardian first book award". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. 28 November 2009. Retrieved 19 September 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. "Eleanor Catton on Orange Prize long list". Stuff.co.nz. NZPA. 17 March 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. [1] Amazon.ca: First Novel Award Books, April 2011
  35. "Eleanor Catton wins Governor General’s Literary Award for The Luminaries". Toronto Star, November 13, 2013.
  36. "Walter Scott Prize Shortlist 2014". Walter Scott Prize. 4 April 2014. Retrieved 27 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links