Christine Leunens

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Christine Leunens
Leunens at the Humanitas Awards, 2020
Leunens at the Humanitas Awards, 2020
Born (1964-12-29) 29 December 1964 (age 58)
Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
  • New Zealand
  • Belgium
EducationVictoria University of Wellington (PhD)
Harvard Extension School (ALM)
Notable works
  • Primordial Soup
  • Caging Skies
  • A Can of Sunshine
  • In Amber's Wake

Christine Leunens (born 29 December 1964) is a New Zealand-Belgian novelist. She is the author of several novels including Caging Skies, which was adapted into the film Jojo Rabbit.


Leunens was born on 29 December 1964 in Hartford, Connecticut, in the United States; her mother was Italian, her father Belgian.[1]

She has a bachelor's degree in French from the University of North Carolina, and an ALM in literature from the Harvard Extension School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[2] She moved to New Zealand in 2006, and received a grant from the International Institute of Modern Letters of Victoria University of Wellington to write a novel as part of a PhD; she completed the degree in 2012 with a two-part thesis on Literary Mothers-in-Law.[3]

Literary career[edit]

In 1996 she won a prize for 'best scenario' from the Centre National du Cinéma in Paris.[3] In 1999 her novel Primordial Soup was published. The Sunday Times described it as a "remarkable debut novel",[citation needed] and Publishers Weekly as "kinky, grotesque and very funny" and "not for the faint of heart".[4]

In 2007 she published Caging Skies, a World War II historical novel set in Vienna, which was described by Le Monde as a "beautiful novel, powerful, different, and ambitious" about "love so total that it locks up, isolates and colonises the partner until destruction annihilates the outside world".[5] The French edition was nominated for the Prix Médicis étranger in 2007.[3]

Her third novel, A Can Of Sunshine, written as part of her PhD, was published in 2013.[6][7]

Taika Waititi adapted Caging Skies into the screenplay for the film Jojo Rabbit, which won an Academy Award for 'best adapted screenplay' in 2019,[8] as well as a Humanitas Prize for writing "intended to promote human dignity, meaning and freedom".[9][10]

In 2022 Leunens published In Amber's Wake, a novel "set against the background of the anti-nuclear movement, Springbok Tour and the Rainbow Warrior [bombing]".[11] A film adaptation is being produced by Mimi Polk Gitlin.[12]

Awards and residencies[edit]

  • UNESCO City of Literature Prague Writer-in-Residence in 2023[13]


  • Primordial Soup (1999)
  • Caging Skies (2008)
  • A Can of Sunshine (2013)
  • In Amber's Wake (2022)


  1. ^ "Leunens, Christine". Read NZ. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  2. ^ Pierre, Harry (2 January 2020). "Extension School grad now looking toward Oscars". Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  3. ^ a b c "Christine Leunens". International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  4. ^ "Primordial Soup by Christine Leunens". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  5. ^ "Christine Leunens: une prison de peur et d'amour". Le (in French). 22 November 2007. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  6. ^ "Great line-up for Yarns in Barns fest". NZ Herald. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  7. ^ "Christine Leunens : A Can of Sunshine". RNZ. 17 November 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  8. ^ Results. Beverly Hills, California: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Accessed February 2023.
  9. ^ Haring, Bruce; Hipes, Patrick (25 January 2020). "Humanitas Prize Awards: 'Jojo Rabbit', 'When They See Us', 'Veep' Among Winners". Deadline. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  10. ^ "'Little Women,' 'Jojo Rabbit,' 'The Two Popes' Land Nominations for USC Scripter Awards". 18 December 2019. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  11. ^ ""I felt there was something important and relevant to today"". NZ Herald. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  12. ^ "In Amber's Wake: Christine Leunens' new novel". RNZ. 23 February 2022. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  13. ^ "Rezidenční pobyty 2023". Praha město literatury (in Czech). Retrieved 15 February 2023.

External links[edit]