Sri Lankan writer Shehan Karunatilaka wins $75K Booker Prize for novel The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida
The prestigious U.K. prize annually recognizes the best novel written in English
Sri Lankan writer Shehan Karunatilaka has won the 2022 Booker Prize for his novel The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida.
The £50,000 ($75,752 Cdn) Booker Prize annually recognizes the best original novel written in the English language and published in the U.K.
The 2022 prize was given out at an in-person ceremony for the first time since 2019.
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is a satirical novel about a photographer named Maali Almeida who was killed, and finds himself in an afterlife that feels like a visa office. He has no idea who killed him, but the list of suspects is surprisingly long. Alemeida has seven moons to contact the man and woman he loves most and lead them to a hidden cache of photos that will change Sri Lanka forever.
The Booker Prize called The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida "searing, mordantly funny satire set amid the murderous mayhem of a Sri Lanka beset by civil war."
The 2022 jury is comprised of cultural historian, writer and broadcaster Neil MacGregor, academic and broadcaster Shahidha Bari, historian Helen Castor, novelist and critic M. John Harrison and novelist, poet and professor Alain Mabanckou.
Karunatikala told the Booker Prize that the novel began germinating in 2009, after the end of the Sri Lankan civil war. "There was a raging debate over how many civilians died and whose fault it was," he told the prize in an interview, so he chose to write "a ghost story where the dead could offer their perspective."
Karunatikala was born in Galle, Sri Lanka in 1975. The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is his second novel, after 2010's Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew. He is also the author of the children's book Please Don't Put That In Your Mouth.
The other five books on the shortlist this year were Glory by Zimbabwean author NoViolet Bulawayo, The Trees by American author Percival Everett, Treacle Walker by English novelist Alan Garner, Small Things Like These by Irish author Claire Keegan and Oh William! by American novelist and author Elizabeth Strout.
The remaining finalists will each receive £2,500 ($3,787 Cdn) and a specially bound edition of their book.
Publishers submitted 169 novels for consideration this year. Books published between Oct. 1, 2021 and Sept. 30, 2022 were eligible.
Since 2013, authors from any nationality have been eligible. No Canadians were recognized for the 2022 prize.
Margaret Atwood shared the 2019 prize with British novelist Bernardine Evaristo. Atwood was recognized for her novel The Testaments, and Evaristo for her novel Girl, Woman, Other.
Two other Canadians have won the prize since its inception in 1969: Michael Ondaatje in 1992 for The English Patient and Yann Martel in 2002 for Life of Pi.