Who is Shehan Karunatilaka, the writer whose novel ‘The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida’ has been awarded the 2022 Booker Prize?

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The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, a metaphysical thriller by Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka, has been awarded the 2022 Booker Prize for Fiction for the novel’s “ambition of its scope, and the hilarious audacity of its narrative techniques”. The announcement was made by Neil MacGregor, Chair of 2022 judges, in a ceremony at the Roundhouse, London, on October 17.

According to Booker’s website, the novel encapsulates the story of a war photographer who has woken up dead in what seems to be a celestial visa office. He has ‘seven moon’ to try and solve his death’s mystery and help unveil a cache of photos that will rock warn-torn Sri Lanka. Originally Published in January 2022, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is considered by many a searing satire set amid the mayhem of the Sri Lankan civil war. However, the author wishes to see it in the fantasy section of the bookshop and not mistake the novel for “realism or political satire”, he said in his acceptance speech.

Karunatilaka, who has now become the second Sri Lankan author to win the Booker Prize, received the honour from Queen Consort Camilla at the award’s first in-person ceremony since 2019. The writer said, “My hope for ‘Seven Moons’ is that in the not too distant future… it is read in a Sri Lanka that has understood that these ideas of corruption, race-baiting and cronyism have not worked and will never work.”

One of Sri Lanka’s foremost authors, Shehan Karunatilaka has published two novels and three children’s books. His debut novel Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew, published in 2010, was awarded the 2012 Commonwealth Book Prize and brought the author to the global literary stage. It then went on to win the DSL and Gratiaen Prizes along with being declared the second-best cricket book of all time by Wisden. Long before his first novel, the author’s first manuscript, The Painter, was shortlisted for the Gratiaen Prize in 2000 but it never got published.

Born in Galle, Sri Lanka, in 1975, Karunatilaka grew up in Colombo, studied in New Zealand, and lived and worked in London, Amsterdam and Singapore. He currently lives in Sri Lanka.

In addition to his widely-acclaimed books, the author has also written features on sport, music and travel for The Guardian, Rolling Stone, Wisden, GQ, Conde Nast and National Geographic. He has over 20 years of experience working for ad agencies, tech firms, media houses, start-ups and multinationals across Singapore, London, Colombo, Sydney and Amsterdam, his official website states.

The website describes him as a “Booker-shortlisted writer of punchlines, manifestos, and calls-to-action. Failed cricketer, failed rockstar, failed vegan. Observer of people, machines and markets. Does not know how to use semi-colons; and unable to spell diarrhoea without assistance”.

In an interview, a few weeks prior to the Booker awards ceremony, Karunatilaka listed his five favourite Booker-winning or Booker-shortlisted novels: Lincoln in the Bardo, Cloud Atlas, The Handmaid’s Tale, Girl and Woman.

In 2013, while speaking to The Nation, he had described his influences as: “Kurt Vonnegut, William Goldman, Salman Rushdie, Michael Ondaatje, Agatha Christie, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Tom Robbins and a few hundred others.”

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