Shehan Karunatilaka wins coveted Booker Prize

Oct 19 2022.

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Becoming only the second Sri Lankan-born writer to win the prestigious Booker Prize author Shehan Karunatilaka was unanimously declared the winner at the awards ceremony at the Roundhouse in London on Monday night for his novel The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida which revolves around the trauma of Sri Lanka’s long civil war.  Receiving his prize Karunatilaka said, “My hope is that in the not too distant future Sri Lanka has understood that these ideas of corruption and race-baiting and cronyism have not worked and will never work.” He also added that he hoped one day the political situation in Sri Lanka will be such that his novel will sit on the fantasy shelves of bookshops.

He also addressed the people of Sri Lanka when he summarised what he said in English, “ I write these books for you. Let’s keep sharing these stories.”  Karunatilaka received his trophy from Camilla, the Queen Consort in one of her first official public engagements since she took on her new role. He was presented with the prize money of £50,000 by last year’s winner Damon Galgut.  The judges praised the “ambition of its scope, and the hilarious audacity of its narrative techniques”. 

Addressing the audience Neil MacGregor, former director of the British Museum and the Chair of the judges for this year’s prize stated the novel was chosen because “it’s a book that takes the reader on a rollercoaster 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.” 

According to the Chair, the judging panel which included  academic and broadcaster Shahidha Bari; historian Helen Castor; novelist and critic M John Harrison; and novelist, poet and professor Alain Mabanckou “were unanimous in their decision to award the prize to Karunatilaka.” Karunatilaka’s book The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is published by the independent press Sort of Books and is the first time a book by the publisher has been longlisted for the prize. Karunatilake follows in the footsteps of Sri Lankan-born Michael Ondaatje, who won in 1992 with The English Patient. Chinaman published in 2011 was Karunatilaka’s debut novel which went on to win the Commonwealth Book Prize.  Chinaman was called the “second best cricket book of all time” by the cricketers’ almanac Wisden.

Shehan Karunatilaka’s Booker-winning novel tells the story of the photographer of its title, who in 1990 wakes up dead, with a week to ask his friends to find his photos and expose the brutality of war. Explaining the inspiration for the book. Karunatilaka said he decided in 2009 to write “a ghost story where the dead could offer their perspective” after the end of the Sri Lankan civil war, “when there was a raging debate over how many civilians died and whose fault it was”.



Tina Edward Gunawardhana

Tina Edward Gunawardhana is a journalist specialising in travel, fashion, lifestyle, cuisine and personalities. She is also the Deputy Editor for Hi!! Magazine. An intrepid traveller, she likes to show readers the world through her eyes and experiences. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - tinajourno [email protected]



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