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Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka wins 2022 Booker Prize


Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka has won the 2022 Booker Prize with his novel “The Seven Moons Of Maali Almeida”.

The writer was praised by judges for the “scope and the skill, the daring, the audacity and hilarity” of his second novel.

The book is a darkly comic murder mystery set in Colombo in 1990 during the Sri Lankan Civil War.

It follows Maali Almeida, a war photographer, as he tries to find out who killed him in seven moons.

Karunatilaka, who was born in Galle and grew up in Colombo, has said that Sri Lankans “specialise in gallows humour and make jokes in the face of crises”.

“It’s our coping mechanism,” he said.

“To make any long list requires luck... to have a novel about Sri Lanka’s chaotic past come out just when the world is watching Sri Lanka’s chaotic present also requires an alignment of dark forces.

“Unlike my protagonist Maali Almeida, I don’t gamble. So I don’t expect to roll two more sixes, though I will scream with joy if I do.”

This year marked the first time Karunatilaka was shortlisted for the award, though his 2011 debut book, “Chinaman”, took home the Commonwealth Book Prize, the DSL and the Gratiaen Prize.

The 47-year-old follows fellow Sri Lankan-born author Michael Ondaatje who won the Booker in 1992 for “The English Patient”, and the Golden Booker celebrating 50 years of the prize in 2018.

British art historian Neil MacGregor, chairman of the 2022 judges,described Karunatilaka’s book as “an afterlife noir that dissolves the boundaries not just of different genres, but of life and death, body and spirit, east and west”.

“It’s a book that takes the author on a roller coaster journey through life and death, right to what the author describes as the dark heart of the world and there the reader finds to their surprise joy,tenderness, love and loyalty,” he said.

As well as MacGregor, the judging panel comprised academic and broadcaster Shahidha Bari, historian Helen Castor, novelist and critic M John Harrison and novelist, poet and professor Alain Mabanckou.

Karunatilaka was presented with the trophy by the Queen Consort.

He was also presented with £50,000 ($56,785) by last year’s winner Damon Galgut, as well as a designer-bound edition of his book.

Shortlisted authors — No Violet Bulawayo for “Glory”, Percival Everett for “The Trees”, Claire Keegan for “Small Things Like These”, Elizabeth Strout for “Oh William!”, and Alan Garner for “Treacle Walker” — received £2,500 each.

First awarded in 1969, the Booker is open to writers of any nationality whose work is written in English and published in Britain or Ireland.

— PA Media/dpa

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