Joy as New Zealand author wins 'literary World Cup'
New Zealand author Eleanor Catton pictured after winning the Man Booker Prize for Fiction for her book 'The Luminaries' in London on October 15, 2013
Perhaps inevitably in the rugby-mad nation, some Kiwis likened the 28-year-old's feat in snaring the prestigious prize for fiction to winning the literary equivalent of the World Cup.
Others hailed the emergence of a major new talent following the Booker presentation in London, which took place on Wednesday morning New Zealand time, drawing large crowds to bookshops, which screened the event live.
Prime Minister John Key led the tributes, moving a parliamentary vote congratulating Catton for becoming only the second New Zealander after Keri Hulme in 1985 to win the Booker.
"New Zealand generally celebrates our sporting successes on the international stage with enormous vigour," he told parliament.
"We should be celebrating this with equal enthusiasm, as it's a truly remarkable achievement."
Bookworms packed into the aisles at Unity Books in downtown Wellington heeded his advice, greeting the announcement with cheers and whooping as staff handed out champagne.
"We had one customer who said that this was more important for New Zealand than winning the Rugby World Cup," Unity's Todd Atticus told AFP.
"For our customers, the high-end literary types, that goes without saying."
Atticus said all signed and hardback copies of the novel had sold "and we're rapidly munching through our stock of trade paperbacks".
Booksellers New Zealand chief executive Lincoln Gould said orders for Catton's book rose hours after her win.
"It's a tremendous success for New Zealand publishing and will help book sales in a market that's been somewhat depressed," he told AFP.
Catton topped a six-person shortlist that also included English writer Jim Crace, Zimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo, Indian-American author Jhumpa Lahiri, Canadian-American novelist Ruth Ozeki and Ireland's Colm Toibin.
Catton's publisher Fergus Barrowman of Victoria University Press praised the Booker judges' vision in selecting the 832-page door stopper, the longest novel to ever win the prize.
He said it was a "big, ambitious book written by a fearlessly intelligent and talented writer" that would help other New Zealand authors.
"It's fantastic, you can sort of hear the doors creaking open ... a success like this is a reminder that books can come from anywhere," he told Radio New Zealand.
"Often the most interesting, the freshest and most lively books come from outside the main centres, it's going to do a great deal for other New Zealand writers."
Opposition Labour Party leader David Cunliffe said Catton's historical murder mystery, set during the New Zealand Gold Rush, placed her alongside past winners such as Iris Murdoch, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood and Kingsley Amis.
There was some amusement among New Zealanders that Canada had been quick to claim Catton as their own.
She was born in Ontario while her father, a Kiwi academic, was completing a doctorate at the University of Western Ontario, then moved to New Zealand at age six.
"I feel very much a New Zealander," she told Fairfax Media last week.
Catton told the New Zealand Listener magazine this month that her second novel took three years to write and another two to research.
The Auckland-based writer said she had considered how the £50,000 ($80,000) winner's cheque and global exposure presented by the prize could change her life.
"What a sum of money this size means is that essentially it's a temptation to leave behind an earlier version of yourself," she said.
"But it's a treacherous temptation because obviously we can't do that at all."
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