Sri Lankan writer Shehan Karunatilaka won the prestigious British Booker Prize on Monday, October 17 for his novel The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, a biting satire set in the civil war that rocked his country. The jury hailed “the breadth and skill, the audacity, the boldness and the hilarity” of the author, who sees thus crowned his second novel.
This darkly humorous murder case is set in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, in the 1990s after the civil war. In his book, the author evokes a war photographer, gambler and hidden homosexual, who tries to find out who killed him.
On receiving the award, Shehan Karunatilaka greeted the other five finalists and thanked his publisher Sort of Books for publishing this book. “weird, difficult, strange”. He expressed his hope that “in the not too distant future”Sri Lanka “understand that these ideas of corruption, greed and cronyism do not work and never will”.
The assurance of an international reputation
The literary prize was presented to him in London by Queen Consort Camilla, during one of his main public appearances since the accession to the throne of her husband King Charles III, for the first ceremony of the Booker Prize in person since 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Shehan Karunatilaka, 47, is the second Sri Lankan-born writer to receive the Booker Prize, after Michael Ondaatje in 1992. In 2021, the prize was awarded to South African author Damon Galgut for The Promise (The promise), a book about time spent in a white farming family in post-apartheid South Africa.
Also in the running were Englishman Alan Garner for his novel Treacle Walker, Irish Claire Keegan for Small Things Like This, the Zimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo for Glorythe American Elizabeth Strout for Ah William! and the American Percival Everett for The Trees.
The winner of the Booker Prize wins the reward of 50,000 pounds (58,000 euros) and the assurance of international fame. Salman Rushdie (1981), Margaret Atwood (2000, 2019) or Hilary Mantel (2009, 2012), who died on September 22 at the age of 70, are among the writers who have received the prize which rewards novels written in English.