The Eleanor Catton Saturday Series: Part III

Eleanor Catton has had a few days to reflect on what she has said, and how the matter has been analysed and discussed.

Here is her written apology to the government and the people of New Zealand in general

In the past twelve months I have travelled to England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Sweden, Spain, Canada, the United States, Australia, Brazil, and most recently India, attending literary festivals and helping to launch foreign-language editions of The Luminaries. To be read and received in different contexts around the world is an unbelievable privilege, one that is constantly shaping and reshaping my relationship with New Zealand, with my book, and with myself. My Maori character’s storyline took on a new significance for me after reading to First Nation elders in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I thought about the Hokitika gold rush differently after exploring the Brazilian coastal town of Paraty, where Brazilian gold, dug by slaves many miles inland, was once shipped out by the ton to Portugal. Talking about astrology in India, and about the nineteenth-century novel in Sweden, and about fiction born of philosophy in France, altered my sense of how The Luminaries fits in with other literary traditions and cultural histories around the world. I have seen also how the novel itself changes according to context: its social and sexual politics, its formal preoccupations, its attitude to history, its language, all become more or less audacious, more or less difficult, more or less successful, more or less interesting, in different parts of the world. The degree of familiarity that international readers have with New Zealand culture and history varies greatly, but one thing remains a constant: everyone I meet who has a personal connection to New Zealand will make sure to tell me all about it, sometimes at length and into a microphone of which they will not let go. I love these moments of connection and the conversation they bring. I am proud that the book is read by people whose lives do not resemble mine, and I am grateful for the opportunity to speak publicly about reading and writing, two of the things I love most. Like everybody I sometimes say things I don’t mean and mean things I don’t say, but throughout the hundreds of interviews that I have conducted since The Luminaries was published I have been conscious of my role as an ambassador—of my country, yes, but also of my gender, of my generation, and of my art.    

The New Zealand mainstream media, though quick to flare up over a condensed record of remarks made last week in Jaipur, are in general altogether behind the ball: I’ve been speaking freely to foreign journalists ever since I was first published overseas, and have criticised the Key government, neo-liberal values, and our culture of anti-intellectualism many times. One reason why my remarks have not have been noticed in New Zealand until now may be that in most modern democracies a writer expressing an opinion is not considered, in itself, shocking. The truly shocking thing would be the writer who only spoke in praise of her country; who was unequivocal in gratitude and platitude; who swore fealty to her government, rather than to deep-felt values or ideals; who regarded arts funding as hush money and a part-time teaching position as an intellectual gag. I hope that that author does not exist today; but if she does, she is the one who should make the news.

In future interviews with foreign media, I will of course discuss the inflammatory, vicious, and patronising things that have been broadcast and published in New Zealand this week. I will of course discuss the frightening swiftness with which the powerful Right move to discredit and silence those who question them, and the culture of fear and hysteria that prevails. But I will hope for better, and demand it.

POSTSCRIPT: I will not be making any further comments or conducting any interviews at this time.

As you can see, she’s incredibly contrite and realises that she was a bit off the mark in her statements.  Additionally, she’s sorry for trying to use her exposure as a political wedge to benefit her beloved Green Party, and further she’ll…..

…hang on a cotton picking minute!

As you can see, this is all the “right“‘s doing.  It was political to start with, and it is political now.

So.

It seems Catton has gotten the response she was after.  She now has her own barrow to push – the nebulous “right” that are uncaring, don’t support the arts, and are frighteningly swift, powerful, using fear and hysteria.

And so Catton goes for the Number One play in the book:  ignore the substance of the argument, attack the messenger.

But then, it was all about attacking the messenger all along.

 

Just quietly, seeing how she writes above and comparing it to Luminaries, she really doesn’t know the magic of generous white space on the efficacy of communicating a message, does she?  I suspect she thinks what I write can’t hold a candle to her carefully crafted works, but in my view, if it doesn’t get the message across, what’s the point?


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story.  And when he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet.   Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet, and as a result he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist that takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him.  But you can’t ignore him.

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