Submitted by Leah on Fri, 2013-11-15 16:41
As if winning the Man Booker Prize weren't enough, just one month on and Eleanor Catton has now scooped Canada's premier literary prize too, the Governor General's Fiction Award. Previous winners have included the MB alumni Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro and Michael Ondaatje. Catton will receive her cheque for $25,000 on 28th November from, appropriately, the Governor General, David Johnston. The judges said of The Luminaries that its “precise sensual prose illuminates greed, fear, jealousy, longing — all that it means to be human”. Catton's stars are most certainly in alignment at the moment.
Catton is one of two young New Zealand women bestriding the arts world at the moment. Catton is, of course, the reigning queen of fiction, the other is the 17-year-old pop minstrelette Lorde who, as we speak, has a number one album in numerous countries. A sweet photograph of the pair channelling John and Yoko was published this week.
One of this year's MB shortlistees, NoViolet Bulawayo (We Need New Names), and one of the longlistees, Donal Ryan (The Spinning Heart), have been included on the Guardian's First Book Award. The five-person list, said the chair of judges, showcases “vibrant, original new talents”. The winner will also be announced on 28th November and the £10,000 prize should go some way to making sure the victor remains vibrant and original.
Approbation for the Man Booker can be found in the most unlikely places. Take, for example, a horse racing publication where the prize is hallowed without any reference to betting. In a discussion of the chances of Irish horses in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival (that's the horse festival not the book version), the Sportinglife's writer says simply that winning the race “is high on the perennial Irish wish list, right up there with the Grand Slam and the Man Booker Prize”. Praise indeed: the holy trinity of rugby, racing and a good book.
There are prizes and prizes … Hilary Mantel, MB winner in 2009 and 2012, and Robert Macfarlane, this year's chair of judges, have both just been awarded honorary degrees. Mantel received hers from Bath Spa University and Macfarlane, resplendent in robes of a positively Thomas Cromwellian hue, accepted his from the University of Gloucestershire.
Zadie Smith, MB shortlisted in 2005 with On Beauty, has been putting the case for literary prizes in times of change. “The way publishing is these days, for a lot of mid-list and a lot of starting writers the prize is everything. It’s not some kind of cherry on the top, it’s essential to getting noticed, to getting readers.” She also reflected on her own early fame, something Eleanor Catton is now finding out about, and expressed the hope that “that bit of celebrity that surrounded me when I was younger will just go away and I’ll just keep on typing”.