30 Jan 2015

Catton's father hits back at 'traitor' claims

9:37 pm on 30 January 2015

The author, Eleanor Catton, has described personal attacks on her this week as inflammatory, vicious and patronising, but says she will not be silenced.

Eleanor Catton.

Eleanor Catton. Photo: ROBERT CATTO

The Man Booker prize winner was called "an ungrateful hua" and "a traitor" after she criticised the Government, neo-liberal values and anti-intellectualism.

She also said she was victim of tall poppy syndrome and did not win the top New Zealand book award because she was an international prize-winner.

New Zealand Book Award judge Dick Frizzell said he was dismayed by the author's assertion she did not take the top prize last year because she was a tall poppy.

Artist Frizzell said it was "absolutely not" a case of bringing Catton down to size and the judges were "buggered if we did or we didn't" give the top award to Catton.

On a statement on her website, Ms Catton, said she had made similar comments a number of times previously, and would continue to do so.

She said she had always been conscious that she was an ambassador of her country, gender, generation and art.

Ms Catton said that in future interviews she would discuss the insults she had received this week, but also what she described as 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".

She said her opinions should not be shocking in a democracy, but shocking would instead be a writer who only spoke in praise of her country, who regarded arts funding as hush money, and a teaching job as an intellectual gag.

Ms Catton said she would not be making any more comments on the issue.

Catton's father hits back at 'traitor claim'

Her father Phillip Catton spoke to broadcaster Sean Plunket on Radio Live this morning. The broadcaster called Catton an 'ungrateful hua' earlier this week, describing her as a traitor.

Mr Catton said people must be free to challenge the authorities.

"Many things that are taken for granted in the present day came about at all, the democratic reforms, the enlightenment, many things came about because of the ability of people in universities to challenge both secular authorities and church authorities."

Mr Catton said the name-calling had been a distraction from the real issues.

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