Eleanor Catton wins $25K Governor General's Literary Award

After winning one of the English literary world's top honours, Eleanor Catton has now scooped up Canada's most venerable book prize.

Eleanor Catton wins $25K GG Lit Award

9 years ago
Duration 1:48
Canada Council awards venerable prizes for fiction, poetry, drama and more

After winning one of the English literary world's top honours, Eleanor Catton has now scooped up Canada's most venerable book prize.

The Canadian-born, New Zealand author has won the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction for her hefty murder mystery The Luminaries, which is set against the 19th century gold rush in New Zealand.

Last month, the 28-year-old Auckland writer became the youngest-ever winner of the Man Booker Prize. The Luminaries also earned the No. 1 spot on Amazon.ca’s list of the top books released in Canada in 2013.

"A great deal has been written about immigrant fiction," Catton said as she began her acceptance speech. "Every immigrant is also an emigrant, just as a writer must balance writing from a literary tradition and writing into one."

Born in London, Ont. while her father was completing his PhD and raised from the age of six in New Zealand where her family subsequently moved, Catton said she has been inspired by literature from around the world. In giving thanks for the award, she noted that she hoped it would help her strengthen ties with "the country of my birth."

The Canada Council for the Arts, which administers the annual literary prize, announced this year's winners during a ceremony in Toronto this morning.

St. John's-born, Vancouver-based scholar Sandra Djwa won the non-fiction category for Journey With No Maps: A life of P.K. Page — a biography that the late Canadian poet approached her to write more than a decade ago.

In her acceptance speech, Djwa acknowledged the troubled state of the Canadian publishing industry and pointed out that her book was turned down by several "multinational" publishers.

"It is disconcerting to think that were it not for the Block Grants provided by the Canada Council to Canadian-owned publishers, this book, like many of the stories you have heard of this morning, might not have been published," she noted.

The poetry honour goes to Winnipeg writer Katherena Vermette for North End Love Songs. Her debut poetry collection, it was inspired by Vermette's North End neighbourhood, the disappearance of her brother, and written to a pounding score of heavy-metal ballads from the late 1980s, early 1990s.

Both children's literature winners hail from Toronto. Author Teresa Toten triumphed in the text category for her teen novel The Unlikely Hero in Room 13B, a whodunit featuring a young protagonist struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Meanwhile, the illustration winner is artist and musician Matt James for Northwest Passage, his vivid interpretation of the classic Stan Rogers tune and exploration of the lost Franklin Expedition.

Rounding out this year's English-language recipients are Toronto-based Nicolas Billon, drama winner for Fault Lines: Three Plays, and Montreal's Donald Winkler, translation winner for The Major Verbs (Les verbs majeurs) by Pierre Nepveu.

The winner of each category receives $25,000 as well as a specially bound copy of his or her book. Publishers of each winning book receives $3,000 for promotional purposes.

Ceremonies honouring both English- and French-language winners will take place in Ottawa on Nov. 28.

Posing in Toronto Wednesday are the 2013 English-language winners of the Governor General's Literary Awards: from left, Eleanor Catton (fiction), Katherena Vermette (poetry), Teresa Toten (children's text), Matt James (children's illustration), Donald Winkler (translation), Nicolas Billon (drama) and Sandra Djwa (non-fiction). (Laura Thompson/CBC)


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