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Novel by Sri Lanka’s Shehan Karunatilaka wins Booker Prize

The ceremony was held at the Roundhouse, a popular concert venue in London, and attended by Camilla, the Queen Consort of the United Kingdom, and singer-songwriter Dua Lipa.

Karunatilaka, one of Sri Lanka’s leading authors, won the 50,000 pound ($57,000) award for his second novel. (Source: The Booker Prizes/Twitter)

The Booker Prize 2022, one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world, has gone to The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka, a Sri Lankan writer also known for his rock songs, screenplays and travel stories. The novel, Karunatilaka’s second, is a satire based in war-torn Sri Lanka, surrounding the life of a war photographer who goes on a journalistic mission in his afterlife. Karunatilaka will receive £50,000 as prize money.

The ceremony was held at the Roundhouse, a popular concert venue in London, and attended by Camilla, the Queen Consort of the United Kingdom, and singer-songwriter Dua Lipa.

Britain’s Queen Camilla poses with winner Shehan Karunatilaka for The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida at the Booker Prize for Fiction 2022 awards ceremony, in London, Britain, October 17, 2022. (REUTERS/Toby Melville/Pool)

Upon winning the award, Karunatilaka said, “My hope for [Seven Moons] is this: that in the not-too-distant future, it is read in a Sri Lanka that has understood that the ideas of corruption and race-baiting and cronyism have not worked and will never work. I hope it’s read in a Sri Lanka that learns from its stories and that this book will be in the fantasy section of a bookshop and will not be mistaken for realism or political satire.”

The judges this year were cultural historian and panel chair Neil MacGregor, academic Shahidha Bari, historian Helen Castor, critic M John Harrison and writer Alain Mabanckou. They read 169 submissions.

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MacGregor, before announcing the prize, said, “We believe that every one of our shortlisted books would be a worthy winner. In different ways, each of them asks the same question — what is the ultimate value of one individual life? The book that we’ve chosen takes readers on a journey at once horrific and humorous, beyond life and beyond death, to the world’s dark heart. And there, astonishingly and encouragingly, we find tenderness and laughter, loyalty and love.”

The shortlist, announced on September 6, featured its oldest writer author ever, Alan Garner (88) for Treacle Walker, and its shortest book, Small Things Like These, by Claire Keegan, at 116 pages. The shortlist featured three women and three men, representing five countries and four continents. Each shortlistee received a specially bound copy of their book, along with £2,500 each. The other shortlisted books were Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo; The Trees by Percival Everett; The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka; and Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout.

The longlist, announced on July 26, featured its youngest writer ever, Leila Mottley (20), for her debut novel Nightcrawling, based on a real-life sexual abuse incident in California, US. It also featured two other debuts, After Sappho by Selby Wynn Schwartz, and Maps of our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer.

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The Booker Prize is awarded annually to a book published in English in the United Kingdom or Ireland. The International Booker Prize — its 2022 edition won by Geetanjali Shree for her Hindi novel, Tomb of Sand, the first Indian-language work to win the prize — is awarded to a work of translation published in the same territories. It is known to revolutionalise the careers of winners, with Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Margaret Atwood and the late Hilary Mantel among many who became household names after their awards.

First published on: 18-10-2022 at 02:46 IST
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