Eleanor Catton’s ‘The Luminaries’ wins 2013 Man Booker Prize
This post has been updated. Please see note at bottom for details.
Eleanor Catton took the 2013 Man Booker Prize for “The Luminaries” at an awards ceremony in London on Tuesday night. At age 28, Catton is the youngest novelist ever to win the prestigious prize -- and her novel, at more than 800 pages, is the longest book.
When she accepted, Catton said, “ ‘The Luminaries’ was, from the start, a publisher’s nightmare.” She thanked her editors for “striking a balance between making art and making money,” the Washington Post reports. In England, winning the Man Booker often means a significant uptick in sales.
British bookseller Waterstone’s told the Guardian that Catton’s novel is “potentially the biggest seller on the short list and will now benefit massively from the Booker boost.”
The book, which officially hits U.S. shelves this week, is a murder mystery that is also an ambitious, structurally innovative novel set in Victorian-era New Zealand.
Catton was born in Canada and brought up in New Zealand; she’s only the second New Zealander to win the $80,000 prize. The nationalities of the authors in the running this year came under greater focus after the organizers announced that eligibility would change in 2014.
Previously, to be considered, authors had to be from England, the Commonwealth, Ireland and Zimbabwe. Starting next year, any author writing in English will be eligible. Some prominent British authors complained that Americans might begin edging out their fellow countrymen.
Nevertheless, the short list of six authors seemed to demonstrate this international reach already. It included two authors who are generally regarded as American -- Jhumpa Lahiri, who was born in England, and Ruth Ozeki, who lives part of the year in Canada. Debut author NoViolet Bulawayo was born in Zimbabwe and now lives in the U.S. Only one author, Jim Crace, is a native Brit who lives in England, while Colm Toibin is Irish but spends some of his time in the U.S.
Crace was generally thought to be the front-runner for the prize. However, with only two books under her belt, Catton has clearly established herself as a force to be reckoned with when it comes to literary awards. Between them, Catton’s novels, “The Luminaries” and “The Rehearsal,” have been long-listed for the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction, long-listed for the Guardian First Book Award, won the Amazon.ca first novel award, and now taken the Man Booker Prize.
“I hope that every book I write will be completely different from the last,” Catton told Australia’s Booktopia earlier this year. “I have also made a private pledge that I will never write a novel about somebody trying to write a novel. There are more than enough of those.”
[Update, 4 p.m. Oct. 15: An earlier version of this post left off the name of Colm Toibin from the list of short-listed authors.]
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