Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

‘I feel women should say what they think’

"I have observed that male writers tend to get asked what they think and women what they feel," she says. 

"In my experience, and that of a lot of other women writers, all of the questions coming at them from interviewers tend to be about how lucky they are to be where they are – about luck and identity and how the idea struck them. The interviews much more seldom engage with the woman as a serious thinker, a philosopher, as a person with preoccupations that are going to sustain them for their lifetime."

Though generally well received in Britain, The Luminaries, she said, was subject to a "bullying" reception from certain male reviewers of an older generation – particularly in her native New Zealand. 

"People whose negative reaction has been most vehement have all been men over about 45," she says.

It is the peculiar constellation of her age, gender and the particular nature of The Luminaries that has, she believes, provoked "a sense of irritation from some critics – that I have been so audacious to have taken up people's time by writing a long book. 

"There's a sense in there of: ‘Who do you think you are? You can't do that.' There's a feeling of: ‘All right, we can tolerate [this] from a man over 50, but we are not going to be spoken to like that by you.'"

But it's the seriousness of Catton's work that strikes you when talking to her – her belief in the novel both as a "builder of empathy" and as a carrier of ideas.

For her, the daughter of a philosopher and a librarian, the novel is a tool for thinking with, as well as for feeling with.

"What I like about fiction most is that it resists closure and exists, if the reader is willing to engage, as a possible encounter – an encounter that is like meeting a human being."— © Guardian News & Media 2013

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

Petro states: What happens when 30% of your national budget...

As the demand for oil shrinks and prices collapse, Africa’s petro states — the likes of Angola, Nigeria, Egypt and Equatorial Guinea — will be left with massive holes in their budgets

More top stories

Petro states: What happens when 30% of your national budget...

As the demand for oil shrinks and prices collapse, Africa’s petro states — the likes of Angola, Nigeria, Egypt and Equatorial Guinea — will be left with massive holes in their budgets

Europe, Asia rob West Africa of fish

Greenpeace Africa reports that the fishmeal and fish oil industry is ‘robbing the Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal of livelihoods and food’

Covid jab tech helps fight malaria

An estimated two-thirds of malaria deaths are among children under the age of five, most of them in Africa.

Learners moving to other provinces puts education departments under pressure

Gauteng and the Western Cape struggle to put children in class, but Limpopo and the Eastern Cape are closing schools as enrolment plummets
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×