Tag Archives: Chirstchurch

The Luminaries

I wanted to love The Luminaries, from  Eleanor Catton, who won the 2013 Man Booker Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in  Anglo-Saxon literature. Not necessarily for the right reasons, but because I’ve always liked the  Bookers I read. Also because I liked the first NZ Booker I read , The Bone People (Keri Hulme), and I also liked Mr Pipp,  from Lloyd Jones, another New Zealander (who almost won a few years ago, and  was subsequently turned into a film). Because the book deals with  New Zealand’s history and the West Coast, a region that I love. Because Catton is young, because her father taught  at the University of Canterbury, because her sister took  one of my classes a few years ago. I wanted to love the book despite the fact that I did not  like the interviews she gave in the media at the time. Reading  eight hundred and  eighteen pages in English repelled me a little, but I read Doris Lessing before,  as well as  other authors  who write lengthy novels. Sixty pages into the book, I thought it was well written, and at around page  three hundred, I thought the book was perhaps going somewhere. But after many nights falling asleep  after reading a few pages, I had to conclude  I did not like the book. Thinking I had missed something,  I read the review in The  Guardian, and the reasons  the critic gave  for  loving the book were the same that made me dislike it. Firstly, the choice of the nineteenth centuy  style, against which I have nothing, a priori, did not add anything to the story, it seemed to me. Then what the critic of The Guardian called stage directions, deeply bothered me. Reading the book, I had the impression I was  reading a script for a TV series giving instructions about the small details: the  colour  of the dress,  its length, the  embroidery on it, how  one character smokes his  pipe repeatedly, etc. Catton has undeniably been researching the gold rush and the New Zealand history of this period, but I often had the impression of reading a research assignment  rather than a novel, as if  Catton wanted to include at all costs  everything  she discovered on the subject. It felt like   the research had not been digested. But what I liked even less, is the way the characters are not embodied (what the critic likes, in The Guardian).

I always found that films made from  books I read are invariably not as good as the books. In the case of The Luminaries, I believe, unfortunately, that the film will be better than the book. However, I am conscious to be part of  a minority of dissatisfied readers, since the book has sold millions of copies.


What one sees


What one sees:

A scrap metal belt around the rubble,

iron ghosts that tend their  arms,

a lake to  become, gaining on concrete,

or the sun over the horizon

Coming back


One can live in one’s  luggage,

for a few weeks

or a few  months.

One can live without one’s  books,

for a few weeks

or some months.

But one  always heads back home

after a few weeks

or a few months, and this is

even if home is is broken or insane

Bodies have their seasons too

cabbagetree2Escaping  from the British winter in February (although it was particularly mild this year) to go to Spain was beneficial. My body gorged on  sun and did not protest too much  against the slightly lower temperatures than normal at this time of the year in the South.  The shock of the arrival in Quebec in March in a spring that refused to come, was a little more difficult. The thought of returning to New Zealand in April, however, created a feeling of well-being, while the temperature is always around 20 degrees in a rather mild autumn. But it will be winter again in July and my body rebels and calls for a summer, it  has not had since January 2014. I can not fool him and ask him to wait until January 2016. What to do ?