Sri Lankan Writer Shehan Karunatilaka Wins Booker Prize 2022  

In what Judges describe as a ‘rollercoaster journey through life and death’, Sri Lankan Writer Shehan Karunatilaka has bagged the Booker Prize 2022 for The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida.

Set in Colombo, 1990, a war photojournalist, gamester and closet gay, Maali Almeida, wakes up dead one morning in a place that looked like passport office for celestial beings.

Not only are hearts breaking, war too is breaking; not only is blood being lost but lives are being lost also. Using the hereafter as reality, Almeida has seven moons to lead the two people he loves to a hidden hoard of photographs expected to shake things up – and also hopefully solve his murder.

Karunatilaka pours his wit through cupful of sarcasms, ghosts and laughs while spilling history lessons on the island country.

 Sri Lankan Writer Shehan Karunatilaka Wins Booker Prize 2022 (News Central TV)

The Seven Moons is an updated version of Chats with the Dead, which was released just before the pandemic, in January 2020.

The 47-year-old follows fellow Sri Lankan-born author Michael Ondaatje who clinched the Booker in 1992 for The English Patient, and the Golden Booker celebrating 50 years of the prize in 2018.

Earlier, when the shortlist was announced, the chair of the judges, Neil MacGregor, said the six books are set in different places at different times but that “they are all about events that in some measure happen everywhere, and concern us all.”

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A keynote speech was given by singer-songwriter Dua Lipa, while the event was hosted by comedian Sophie Duker. Here’s a look at the rest of the shortlist:

Glory, by NoViolet Bulawayo: A satirical fable on Zimbabwe’s 2017 coup which led to the fall of long-serving President Robert Mugabe. It is a lucid response of animals leading to a revolt and hopes to teach the human world a thing and more about how to see things clearly. One of the characters in the novel is Old Horse who rules and rules and rules. What happens when Old Horse is finally gone? There’s a lot of rejoicing, till things again get caught in a series of violence and tyranny.

Treacle Walker, by Alan Garner: A traveller, Treacle Walker, and a boy, Joe Coppock become friends. Coppock has a lazy eye, and squints at the world. Garner sets his story in Cheshire, England, like many of his other work, and quantum physics and imagination come together as Joe begins his journey of discovery.  The Booker judges hailed the book as a “mysterious, beautifully written and affecting glimpse into the deep work of being human.”

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The Trees, by Percival Everett: Ed and Jim, both detectives set about investigating a series of murders –eerily, in each crime scene is present a second dead body which resembles Emmett Till, a young black boy lynched in Money, Mississippi decades back. Everything about The Trees is relevant to today’s world, say the Booker judges. “Everett looks at race in America with an unblinking eye, asking what it is to be haunted by history, and what it could or should mean to rise up in search of justice.” Everett hurtles headlong into grim reality with “swagger, humour, relish and rage.”

Small Things Like These, by Claire Keegan: It’s Christmas in 1985, at a small town in Ireland, and Bill Furlong, a coal and timber merchant, finds a young unwed mother during one of his rounds to a convent. The story plays out in the backdrop of the Magdalene Laundries scandal, where thousands of women were forced into labour by the Catholic Church, and Keegan focuses on the complicity of the community that allows such abuse to go on. Keegan’s historical fiction is also a deep character study of a man who sees a wrong and acts in conscience, and the consequences of his decision.

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Oh William!, by Elizabeth Strout: This is a Lucy Barton novel, and Strout makes her successful writer-heroine reconnect with her first husband, William, and studies the consequences. They go down memory lane together, their college years, marriage, and birth of their daughters, and also look back at the breakdown of their marriage and yet why they still lean on each other for friendship. They also take stock of the past where more surprises are in store, making it a deeply felt novel of empathy and insight.  The judges found it “quietly radiant” and have praised Strout for her gentle reflections on marriage, family, love and loneliness.


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