Novel by Sri Lanka’s Shehan Karunatilaka wins Booker Prize

The 2022 Booker Prize, one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world, went 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 set in war-torn Sri Lanka and revolves around the life of a war photographer going on a journalistic mission in his afterlife. Karunatilaka receives £50,000 in prize money.

The ceremony took place at the Roundhouse, a popular London concert venue, and was attended by Queen Consort of the UK Camilla and singer-songwriter Dua Lipa.

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

After winning the award, Karunatilaka said, “My hopes of [Seven Moons] is this: that in the not too distant future it will be read by a Sri Lankan who has understood that the ideas of corruption and racism and nepotism have not worked and never will. I hope it will be read in a Sri Lankan that learns from its stories and that this book will be found in the fantasy section of a bookstore and not confused with realism or political satire.”

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This year’s judges were cultural historian and jury chair Neil MacGregor, academic Shahidha Bari, historian Helen Castor, critic M. John Harrison and writer Alain Mabanckou. You are reading 169 submissions.

Before announcing the award, MacGregor said: “We believe that any of our shortlisted books would be a worthy winner. Each of them, in a different way, asks the same question: What is the ultimate value of a single life? The book we have chosen takes the reader on a journey that is as terrifying as it is humorous, beyond life and beyond death, into the dark heart of the world. And there we find amazing and encouraging tenderness and laughter, faithfulness and love.”

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The shortlist, announced on September 6, included his oldest-ever author, Alan Garner, 88, for Treacle Walker, and his shortest book, Small Things Like These, by Claire Keegan, at 116 pages. The shortlist included three women and three men from five countries and four continents. Each shortlist 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.

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The longlist, announced July 26, included the youngest-ever author, Leila Mottley, 20, for her debut novel, Nightcrawling, which is based on a real-life incident of sexual abuse in California, United States. It also included two other debuts, Selby Wynn Schwartz’s After Sappho and Maddie Mortimer’s Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies.

The Booker Prize is awarded annually to a book published in English in the UK or Ireland. The International Booker Prize – its 2022 edition, which Geetanjali Shree won for her Hindi novel Tomb of Sand, the first Indic language work to win the prize – is awarded to a translated work published in the same territories. It has been known to revolutionize the careers of winners including Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Margaret Atwood and the late Hilary Mantel who became household names after their awards.


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