Booker crowns youngest-ever winner
28-Yr-Old New Zealander Eleanor Catton’s 832-Page Novel Longest To Be Honoured
Kounteya Sinha TNN
London: Eleanor Catton has become the youngest writer to ever win a Man Booker prize. The 28-year-old New Zealander’s book ‘The Luminaries’ — an 832-page murder mystery based on the gold rush in the 19th-century is also the longest novel to ever win the coveted literary prize.
Catton, who started writing the book when she was 25, was given the £50,000 award by the Duchess of Cornwall at London’s Guildhall on Tuesday evening. The judges picked Catton’s audacious take on an old form, the Victorian ‘sensation novel’.
The youngest-ever winner before Catton was Ben Okri who was 32 when his work ‘The Famished Road’ won the Booker prize in 1991.
‘The Luminaries’ is Catton’s second novel after ‘The Rehearsal’, which was shortlisted for the 2009 Guardian first book award. Catton is just the second New Zealander to win the prize, the first being Keri Hulme with ‘The Bone People’ in 1985.
‘The Luminaries’, set in 1866, contains a group of 12 men gathered for a meeting in a hotel and a traveller who stumbles into their midst; the story involves a missing rich man, a dead hermit, a huge amount in gold, and a beatenup whore. The multiple voices take turns to tell their own stories and gradually what happened in the small town of Hokitika on New Zealand’s South Island is revealed.
The novel was up against Indian-American writer Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘The Lowland’— a story of a young man’s tryst with the Naxalite movement at the cost of his family. Set in Kolkata, ‘The Lowland’ was among six books shortlisted for the prize.
One of the favourites to win was the shortest work ever to be shortlisted—Colm Toibin’s 30,000 word ‘The Last Testament of Mary’.
The chair of judges Robert Macfarlane described ‘The Luminaries’ as a “dazzling work, luminous, vast”. It is, he said, “a book you sometimes feel lost in, fearing it to be “a big baggy monster”, but it “turns out to be as tightly structured as an Orrery”.
Macfarlane and his fellow judges were impressed by Catton’s technique but it was her “extraordinarily gripping” narrative that enthralled them. “We read it three times and each time we dug into it the yields were extraordinary, its dividends astronomical.” ‘The Luminaries’ is, said Macfarlane, a novel with a heart.
“The characters are in New Zealand to make and to gain — the one thing that disrupts them is love.”
So will readers be put off by the book’s bulk? “No”, was Macfarlane’s emphatic response. “Length never poses a problem if it’s a great novel. ‘The Luminaries’ is a novel you pan, as if for gold, and the returns are huge.”
What impressed the judges almost as much as the book itself was that it could have been the work of someone so young. Catton was just 25 when she started work on it yet, he said. “Maturity is evident in every sentence, in the rhythms and balances. It is a novel of astonishing control.” In the end Macfarlane neatly summed up the book and Catton’s achievement: “awesome”, he said.
Jhumpa Lahiri among finalists for US award
Indian-American author Jhumpa Lahiri has been named finalist for the US National Book Award 2013 in the fiction category for her new book ‘The Lowland’. The National Book Foundation announced the lists of five finalists each for the 2013 National Book Award in the fiction, non-fiction, poetry and young people’s literature categories in New York on Wednesday. PTI
Source:::: The Times of India, 17-10-2013, p.20, http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=TOINEW&BaseHref=TOIM/2013/10/17&PageLabel=20&EntityId=Ar02001&ViewMode=HTML