Man Booker Prize: New Zealand Writer Eleanor Catton Shortlisted for 'The Luminaries', Tipped as Favourite to Win

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By Sunny Peter | September 12, 2013 3:18 PM EST

New Zealand writer Eleanor Catton, 28, is the youngest author on the shortlist of the prestigious 2013 Man Booker Prize for fiction. In what is being termed as a diverse shortlist, the six finalists, along with Catton vying for the 50,000-pound ($85,000) prize include Pulitzer Prize-winner Jhumpa Lahiri and Irish novelist Colm Toibin.

The shortlist announced on Tuesday include Catton's gold rush tale, "The Luminaries," Lahiri's Indian-American family saga "The Lowland" and Toibin's Bible-inspired "The Testament of Mary" along with shantytown-set story "We Need New Names" by Zimbabwe's NoViolet Bulawayo; rural requiem "Harvest" by Britain's Jim Crace; and Pacific-crossing story "A Tale for the Time Being" by Canada's Ruth Ozeki.

The head of the judging panel, writer Robert Macfarlane, was quoted as saying that the six novels were "world-spanning in their concerns, and ambitious in their techniques."

"It is a shortlist that shows the English language novel to be a form of world literature. It crosses continents, joins countries and spans centuries," he is reported to have said.

Born on Sept 24, 1985 in Canada, Catton was raised in New Zealand. She currently lives in Auckland. Her debut novel "The Rehearsal" (2008) was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Dylan Thomas Prize, and long-listed for the Orange Prize. It has since been published in 17 territories and 12 languages. Her latest novel "The Luminaries," nominee for this year's Man Booker Prize, was published on Sept 5, 2013.

Set in 1866, "The Luminaries" is the story about Walter Moody who makes his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields and gets drawn into the mystery of fates and fortunes.

Founded in 1969, the award is known as the Man Booker Prize after its sponsor, financial services firm Man Group PLC. The prestigious award is closely followed by the literary world. For authors, the nominations bring huge publicity and sales. Last year's winner was Hilary Mantel for her Tudor political saga "Bring Up the Bodies," the sequel to her bestselling novel "Wolf Hall," which also won the Booker.

Reports suggest that the diversity of the list makes this year's contest especially unpredictable. Crace and Toibin are both previous Booker finalists and the other four writers on the list - all women - first-time nominees.

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