Eleanor Catton receives VUW Doctorate for “extraordinary accomplishments”

eleanor catton may 2014
Twitter photo from Fergus Barrowman

Press Release – Victoria University of Wellington
Award-winning author of The Luminaries Eleanor Catton received an honorary degree of Doctor of Literature from Victoria University of Wellington at an afternoon graduation ceremony today.

“Eleanor Catton’s extraordinary accomplishments at such a young age are a prime example of the calibre of Victoria’s graduates and the outstanding contributions they make in their respective fields,” says Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Professor Grant Guilford. “We are immensely proud of Eleanor’s success on the international stage, and look forward to following her future career.”

In accepting her Honorary Doctorate, conferred by the Victoria University Council, Ms Catton described meeting Fergus Barrowman, the publisher of Victoria University Press (which publishes The Luminaries). “I made him a cup of tea in a mug that leaked, and stirred it with a pencil because we were out of spoons, and we sat on two chairs salvaged from the landfill and he offered to take a risk on me.

“I owe a profound debt of gratitude to Victoria University for fostering and supporting me from the very beginning of my writing career, and to Fergus especially.”

She encouraged Victoria’s newest graduates to continue to ask the question ‘what if’?

“Inspiration is mysterious, and will not answer to a formula—no more than a couple can produce an identical second child by replicating the conditions in which they conceived the first. But the purpose of a university is not to replicate, but to enlarge; not to simplify, but to understand; not to reflect or serve the world in which we live, but to enrich it through the creation and exploration of an infinity of possible other worlds, some corrective, some cautionary, some preservative, some prophetic, some subversive, some strange, and all conjured from that fearless, formidable Big Bang of a word, If.”

Ms Catton was a speaker at the Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival last Saturday and will participate in the Auckland Writers Festival later this week. She recently returned from a month-long book tour of the United Kingdom, as well as the Netherlands, where the first translation of her book has been completed. She will also be participating in a number of international book festivals this year.

Ms Catton has a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Victoria University, conferred with Distinction in 2008, and a Bachelor of Arts, conferred with First Class Honours in 2009. She has received multiple awards for both her novels, The Rehearsal and The Luminaries, including the prestigious 2013 Man Booker Prize for The Luminaries.

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