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.


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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  • WhaleBoyNZ

    I wonder of her book sales in NZ will start to decline after her tirade. Good luck on your next book Eleanor! Who will she turn to when she has writers block I wonder? If she can never write another successful novel again she wont get much sympathy from NZers. The pressure is on Eleanor.

  • Kevin

    You have writers like yourself who (to steal from The Elements of Style), see the reader as someone drowning and is willing to give them a helping hand.

    Then you have writers like Catton who are all too willing to let the reader drown in overlong, overwrought, and pretentious sentences …

  • Salacious Crumb

    I can’t but help compare Eleanor Catton to the way an immediate artistic peer of hers, Ella Jelich-O’Conner (Lorde), conducts herself. Both have talent, both have gained a world wide spotlight and both are outspoken. One however conducts herself with a bit of class mixed with sass and a maturity beyond her years. The other sounds like a disaffected whinger desperate to convey her politics, yet both seem to share similar leanings.

    • pak

      Fair point but I think Lorde already has far more international exposure and recognition than Catton is ever going to achieve.

    • friardo

      Your comparison is very apt. Lorde is a very confidant young woman who seems to have gone from childhood to adulthood without the bother of adolescence. Catton by contrast seems to be one of those whose adolescence may never leave entirely her. That doesn’t mean she won’t develop her writing, which in the Luminaries was both beautiful yet long winded by today’s standards but which I thought suited the time in which the book was set.

      That said, her adolescent outrage at a few people pointing out her naivety, undeveloped social sensitivity and shear political ignorance will do little to help her public appeal. If she sticks to her writing though I imagine she will be very successful for a long time, something not many pop singers achieve.

  • Pluto

    Go and stand in the naughty corner “right” NZ. Eleanor’s going to tell on you to the world press.

    • Momo

      Go on. Guess what? Only New Zealanders vote. And the recently voted yes to John Key and no to the Greens.

  • JC

    Kevin Hague will be wincing.. does he embrace or reject a prominent Green plank called Elinor?

    Key even has the Herald on side on this one.


  • yoyoyo

    I was thinking of buying and reading her book… but meh… it can go the way of the other “Award winning journalist” Monsieur Hager and go into my too hard filing cabinet aka the garbage

    • JC

      I read quite a few reviews on the book but many said they bought it because of the Man Booker prize and whilst they recognised her wordsmithing they were disappointed. Many said they didn’t finish it.


      • oldmanNZ

        I heard it from somewhere, I cannot remember (perhaps in smallville?)

        That it not how its written that matters, its what is written.
        The content is what matters.

        “History is not based on what happen, but the context that it was written?’

        You can write a beautifully worded book about a man painting his house and watching the paint dry….

        Or a man who painted his little run down house and eventually be came a very rich man?

        Guess which book will sell more.

        • All_on_Red

          The one about the painter who was really a highly trained secret agent?

        • phronesis

          Wasn’t that the Karate Kid?

    • Radvad

      Me too.

    • la la land

      I thought it was beautifully written but laborious

      • Edward Bufe

        In other words totally boring, coming from someone who has read everyone of Wilbur Smith’s books starting at When The Lion Feeds to his latest Vicious Circle. Be they fantasy or half facts his writing resonates with me.

        • Cadwallader

          The simplicity of style of Hemmingway resonates still. The 1980s feminazis berated him for having testosterone but his stories both real and fictive remain at the top of my list.

  • Forrest Ranger

    This so called apology was tl:dr but I struggled through it. I also struggle to see how it is actually an apology – I don’t see the word sorry in it anywhere.

    • OneTrack

      It wasn’t an apology.

  • Michael

    Agree with you on the formatting. Its similar in academic essays where a predefined format needs to trump actual readability and communication

  • Radvad

    Dear Eleanor
    Everybody has the right to speak freely. Nobody has the right to expect their speech to be free of examination, disagreement or critique.

    • Cadwallader

      The only other Eleanor I recall was “Eleanor Rigby” who wore a face she kept in a jar by the door. Sounds about right.

  • McGrath

    This Chardonnay Green Socialist is getting all the attention that she craves and will not be happy until NZ has become a Green-Taliban paradise. It’s time she was simply ignored.

  • Wallace Westland

    As I said earlier long winded and verbose just like her book. Also her grammar isn’t that flash. If I remember correctly there is no need for a comma after “and” as and becomes a separation (or whatever the rule was)

    Copied from her statement in the NZ Herald “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.”

    • Kevin

      I think what you’re referring to is the “Oxford comma”. Some say you have to add a comma after the “and” in a list of items. Others say you don’t. Personally I think it’s whatever sounds right when you read the sentence.

      • Agreed. I take it to be deliberately introducing a pause for emphasis.

      • Cadwallader

        I use Strunk&White for guidance. Apparently it depends on whether the list is conjunctive or disjunctive??? Whatever that means.

      • Wallace Westland

        Sounds reasonable. Thanks.

  • Genevieve

    “The culture of fear and hysteria that prevails.”
    This doesn’t sound like the same New Zealand that I live in.
    Hints of paranoia and maybe a tendency to pedantically over- analyse her thoughts?

    • Cadwallader

      Interviewing the slush pit of her keyboard. There comes a time when self-absorption morphs into masturbation. This appears routine in the Greenies.

  • Richard

    The Luminaries, a book review, by Richard……TLDR.

    • Kevin

      That’s the best review of the book I’ve ever read.

  • oldmanNZ

    So Catton wrote an apology for NZ?

    why does she has to apologies? was I offended?
    Is she trying to get me to buy her book?

    She can write what ever she likes and critizes whoever she likes, (who called us a rich prick? did he apologies?), its a free country (not a free world anymore).

    Just because she wrote a book and won arty award for fiction, does not make her right or truthful or any more understanding of the political world.

    Just like the rest of the greens that usually spout rubbish and obscene comments,
    Just like her book, best ignored as another bit of rubbish.

    WO writes about cyclist being a lice and maggots on the road, I am a cyclist.
    does he need to apologies? no.

    • la la land

      I saw it more as a justification myself…

  • All_on_Red

    Catton has embarrassed herself by having her sense of entitlement exposed by her lack of self awareness as to the extent she (and others) gets support from the NZ taxpayer.
    Just another bludging leftie and JK hater with an axe to grind. You see them every day in the comments section of the Herald. She’ll disappear back to her tax payer funded school teachers sorry lecturers job but anyone googling her will get an interesting view…

  • pak

    Catton is clearly going to have to tighten up her prose otherwise her next verbal bomb launched in pursuit of her Nationalphobic/anti Right agenda is going to fizzle before it lands, annotated “t.l.d.r.”.

    • oldmanNZ

      TLDR (too long, Didnt read, I now know what that stand for, bloody acrynoms…).

      I skipped thru the firs paragraph initially, got to long and tedious, at the end, it didn’t add anything to the apology anyway.

      • pak

        Well, clearly not an apology at all is it? Has all just been a vehicle to further her political agenda. We will know next time to just ignore her.

  • Eiselmann

    Oh I’m sorry for what I said here let me hug you …now I’ll punch you in the stomach and kick you between the legs, now don’t disagree with me again.
    —Eleanor Catton ‘ The art of being sorry and making things right’

  • la la land

    I have just read that she has received over 50k of taxpayer grants – now I am actually angry.

  • Odd Ball

    Dear Eleanor, I haven’t got a lot of time for reading long, eloquently written dribble, if I did, I would still be reading the Herald.
    Simply using 500 words to say what could be said in 25, isn’t been clever, its just pretentious snobbery.
    Don’t bother writing anything else, it wont change my opinion of you.
    Much like your comrade Tania whats her name, from last year, who pulled the same stunt, you have shown yourself to be politically motivated in a malign way, which therefore puts doubt on anything you say.

  • kiwiinamerica

    The left are never wrong – and it’s all politics all the time. Oh and add in tone deafness and perpetual ingratitude (whining for more after already wheedled %50k from the public teat) and you have Catton to a T. This will work out as well for her as it has for Russel Norman. All she needs now is for Kim Dotcom to champion her cause!

  • Michelle

    Spoilt much

  • Rodger T

    Previous to this issue I had not heard or seen any negative press about Eleanor or her book/s,unless she considers a less than glowing review ,tall poppy mowing .
    So her reaction now leads me to ask why well to do authors need govt funding in the first place ,I`m sure if a peasant like myself decided to sit down at my computer to tap some lengthy tome and I requested taxpayer money ,I`d be told to go away.
    So again why do authors need this form of welfare? Nobody funds my lifestyle ,so where does this entitlement originate?

  • Murray Smith

    The sentence, ” But I will hope for better, and demand it.” , is a great one from a supposed writer.
    I was taught to never start a sentence with the word “but”
    As to her demanding better, just who the flaming heck does she think she is ?
    The truth hurts !

    • ” ….. to never start …..” Whoops! Forget starting with ‘but’. You just split an infinitive. I would have received detention for that in my day.

    • Richard

      You will find the equivalent of her type in the music industry using software to repair the flatness of their singing voices during recording.

      I think she is a talentless hack.

      • Kevin

        She has talent – talent in churning out the kind of moronic obtuse rubbish that literary critics love. I’m pretty sure in her book the average sentence is around 400 words long with at least 20 commas and about 5 semi-colons.

  • Kapow

    Seems rather full of her own importance.

  • dumbshit

    my head hurts, the unexplained relevance of each sentence in the first paragraph could only be topped by an unexplained claim that John Key is to blame!

  • flutterby

    Poor Eleanor, she is intent in biting off the hands that have fed her, don’t like her chances in NZ for selling her next book!

  • Cadwallader

    Princess Pomposity!

  • Yeahright

    Two things Jump in my mind straight away;
    1) If she is allowed to speak her mind, so is Sean Plunkit!
    2) As a sales person for her book, why is she elimating half the population from wanting to read it , support her. I see this 2nd point all the time with artist’s, the right more than likely has the disposable cash to buy their product but they end up dis-enfranchising us from this product!

    • oldmanNZ

      “2) As a sales person for her book, why is she elimating half the population from wanting to read it ”

      I think she is doing us a favour…we now know what rubbish to expect.

  • intelligentes candida diva

    She strikes me as a person who is self absorbed and uses her experience with words and language to hedge her bets.

    Damm wishy washy !!!

    REALLY Eleanor?

  • 1951

    Wow….”……frightening swiftness with which the powerful Right move to discredit & silence those who question…” .
    Now that is seriously delusional. It is we, the TAXPAYERS, that have moved swiftly and rightly so. As for the …’fear & hysteria’…that is of your own making Eleanor.
    “Quickly off you go now, hide under rock with those others that need time out to mature.”

    • pisces8284 .

      Maybe even the left taxpayers are unhappy about giving her a great lifestyle. They would never tell us even if they did

  • Beetle

    Yes working in the arts is hard yacker. So is working in business. So is working a daily job. This assumption that evil business and neoliberalism robs the deservingly clever creatives in NZ is illogical and facile. Who is actually paying to keep the country running? The simple solution for the sections of the creative community who cry poor is simple. Free yourself by paying your own way.

  • BloodyOrphan

    Just another person whose mindless tripe has been validated by an award or 2.

    Now her A.D.D. is running rampant, and her delusional perspective has to be expressed.

    The fact she thinks “Tall Poppy’s” always get cut down just tells us she’s been shot down many times in the past for her delusional, self centered A.D.D. personality.

  • Left Right Out

    “She labelled as vicious, inflammatory and patronising things”… so she is upset that some have made their point of view know…… I get it, she can comment we MUST accept… what a great little world she lives in… plus if someone says something bad about her she can get daddy to sort it….. Hua

  • redeye

    If New Zealand really does suffer from ‘Tall Poppy’ syndrome then surely constantly whining about inequality is one of the more obvious symptoms.

  • Disinfectant

    Eleanor Catton has done us all a good turn.
    She has in one instant exposed what the likes of her type think, behave, hate, denounce and condemn.
    Never been a better example.
    She may have brought about a new phrase to describe her type “Done an Eleanor Catton”.

  • BJ

    “ever since I was first published overseas, and have criticised the Key government, neo-liberal values, and our culture of anti-intellectualism many times.”

    Of course she is referring to the airy fairy world of those that cosset their ‘art’ above any real contribution to the economy.
    Heaven forbid if the ‘intellectuals’ ever get to run this country!”

  • timemagazine

    Like all Greens she believes she is somewhere above us-little mortals. It is us, a wee mentally retarded, that do not understand her great depth.

  • Pete

    She gets around a bit eh! you would have thought each one of those countries deserved a 4 or 5 day stay…I wonder who paid for the flights and hotels?

    • Deckboy

      Taxpayer grants

  • So let’s look at this so-called “tall poppy syndrome” in NZ. IMHO it is absolute tripe. NZ for all its good and bad is a village and most of us are only a few steps removed from any of us. We went to school with people like Ms Catton, grew up with them, know a lot of the inside oil and as such we tend to respect their achievements. Being an intensely proud nation and proud of who we are and what we have achieved what we don’t like is seeing people of little weight rubbishing others around them.
    If we look at so-called tall poppies most of them do well and are respected; they are respected because they do not sit on their laurels, are hard working achievers and underneath we sort of envy as well as admire them.
    Mostly we tolerate the occasional foibles of our achievers (I won’t call them tall poppies) and even if we don’t agree with them we can laugh with them or at them.
    What Ms Catton has done is to abuse her position as a New Zealander and as such she needs to be cut down. I grew up in London and came here for the Games in 74, liked it and stayed. I am more proud of NZ when I am overseas than perhaps I should be and if I have complaints about my adopted country they have to be serious and then I’d probably keep them to myself. I would never have the temerity to go on a public stage and place myself in a position where somehow I am so high and mighty I can proselytise emotional claptrap about this country.
    If she has something to really say about human rights abuses, democracy abuses, murder of people who disagree with you then that’s one thing, to rant and rave in such a supercilious manner about her lack of support is appallingly wrong and full of sound and fury signifying nothing! This is what makes her a tall poppy, although I’d prefer the term a tall weed that should be cut down to size promptly.
    Her diatribe above is an insult and frankly if she says and writes nothing else for a few years it will be too soon.

  • Dumrse

    In the last 12 months I have galavanted all round the world stopping in flash hotels in exotic locations using public money.

    She needs to wipe her chin.

  • Graeme

    We read of the number of “luminaries” sold and wonder why she needs to have financial grants. I suppose she will return with humble thanks all the grants received. According to her input today , she has had wonderful travel experience visiting many countries apparently promoting her book so as to make more money for herself and her publisher. When she sits down to think, she may realise how fortunate she has been to get finance during her early years unlike other business people of which she is one, who carry on on their own and usually succeed without financial; help from other parties but on their own bat

  • wooted

    If that’s her writing style she’s just lost me as a prospective customer. Talk about dense!

  • Imogen B

    I sincerely hope the employer who gave her a part time teaching job as an intellectual gag is reconsidering that action.

  • Vunk Haada

    Poor old Eleanor will not be entering any ‘I -Thou’ funding relationships with the govt. from now on.