New Zealander Eleanor Catton has been awarded the prestigious Britain's Man Booker Prize for her epic tale, The Luminaries. At 28 years old, she became the youngest winner of the top literary award for her book set in 19th century New Zealand.
Born in Canada but grew up in Christchurch, New Zealand, Ms Catton received $80,000 in a formal ceremony held at London's Guildhall. The announcement of winners was televised as part of modern tradition.
Ms Catton looked stunned when her name was announced and expressed her gratitude to her publishers for teaching her to strike a balance between art and money.
The Luminaries was published by Granta in Britain, while Little, Brown and Company brought the book in the U.S.
The other nominees of the Man Booker Prize were NoViolet Bulawayo for We Need New Names, a story about a 10-year-old girl who travels to the U.S. from Zimbabwe; Ruth Ozeki for A Tale for the Time Being, a story about a diary that connects people in faraway cities; and Jim Crace for Harvest, a dark novel about the people living in a small village.
Colm Toibin was also nominated for The Testament of Mary, an 81-page portrait of Jesus Christ's mother Mary; and Jhumpa Lahir for The Lowland, a story of Indian siblings living in post-colonial India.
The Man Booker Prize is Britain's most coveted literary award given to authors and novelists from Britain, Ireland or any Commonwealth country. The 2013 ceremony was considered a momentous occasion because the Booker Prize will be open to other writers from the U.S. and other countries in 2014.
In September 2013, the Booker Prize Foundation has announced that it will be accepting entries of novels published in Britain and written in English, regardless of the author's nationality.
The 2013 winner of the Man Booker Prize is the second author from New Zealand who bagged the award. Keri Hulme won the award in 1985 for The Bone People. Ms Catton's The Luminaries was also the longest novel to win the competition at 832 pages.
Ms Catton bested even Pulitzer prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri. Although Ms Lahiri may be of Indian descent, she was born in the U.K.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key congratulated Ms Catton on his Twitter account:
Popular adult and YA novelist in New Zealand, Elizabeth Knox tweeted her reaction:
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