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The nationality of authorship

Born in Canada, raised in New Zealand: Catton isn't really a canuck (Press photo)
Born in Canada, raised in New Zealand: Catton isn’t really a canuck (Press photo)

Canada creates a lot of amazing people. If this were my argument, it would be fairly one sided. You would read the article, laugh a little, and then go back to watching hockey and stroking your pet beaver. Canadian pride isn’t something we’re scared of. It’s easy to be proud when pound for pound our country spawns a lot of famous people.

What makes someone a Canadian though? The winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature was Canadian writer Alice Munro. The winner of the Man Booker Prize for 2013 was Eleanor Catton, another Canadian author.

But one of these things is not like the other.

Despite the affinity for calling everyone who steps into Canada a Canadian (the cause of Michael J. Fox’s terrible joke during the Olympic closing ceremonies), we are going to have some trouble claiming Catton as our own. She was born in Canada, but not much else. At the age of 6, Catton moved to New Zealand. Born in the ice and snow, but raised a Kiwi.

Can we call Catton a Canadian author? She has spent most of her formative years in New Zealand, but she says her Canadian blood is important to her. The Globe and Mail calls her Canadian-born, but CBC and the National Post call her a Canadian. She just won a prize that was available to everyone in the commonwealth, but she is also up for the Governor General’s Award for Literature.

Nobody can seem to agree if she is a Canuck.

Well, she is…maybe. No matter how much grey area there is with Catton’s place of residence for the past 22 years of her life, she has still established herself as a Canadian in her interviews. She’s polite, and more importantly she talks about moving back to Canada, how much she appreciates her Canadian blood, and how she sees it as part of her identity.

She wrote the book about the New Zealand gold rush, but it was published by a Canadian publisher, as well as a New Zealand based one. We can call her Canadian—it all evens out, doesn’t it? We can forget about the fact that she has lived in a different country, with American parents, as the only Canadian-born in her family for the only parts of her life in which she had any literary skill?

We can’t. Eleanor Catton is not a Canadian. She is a Canadian-born author. It was put best by CNN when they mentioned that Canada had a claim to Catton. The claim is similar to our claim on Alaska: it doesn’t matter that much.

That being said, Catton did mention that she would “love to pursue” an offer her husband received to work as a PhD student at McGill in the future. The second she moves back here, I say we place a pair of moose antlers on her and call her one of us.

Canadian Catton just rolls off the tongue.


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