Sri Lankan writer Shehan Karunatilaka won the Booker Prize on Monday for his second novel “The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida,” about a dead war photographer on a mission in the afterlife.
Karunatilaka received a trophy from Queen Consort Camilla at the English language literary award’s first in-person ceremony since 2019. He also gets a 50 000 pound ($56,810) prize.
Set in 1990 Sri Lanka during the country’s civil war, Karunatilaka’s story follows gay war photographer and gambler Maali Almeida, who wakes up dead. Time is of essence for Maali, who has “seven moons” to reach out to loved ones and guide them to hidden photos he has taken depicting the brutality of his country’s conflict.
“My hope for ‘Seven Moons’ is that in the not-too-distant future it is read in a Sri Lanka that has understood that these ideas of corruption, race baiting and cronyism have not worked and will never work,” Karunatilaka said in his acceptance speech.
“I hope it is read in a Sri Lanka that learns from its stories and that ‘Seven Moons’ will be in the fantasy section of the bookshop and will not be mistaken for realism or political satire,” he said.
This year’s shortlist of Booker Prize contenders included British author Alan Garner’s “Treacle Walker”, Zimbabwean author NoViolet Bulawayo’s “Glory”, “Small Things Like These” by Irish writer Claire Keegan, US author Percival Everett’s “The Trees” and “Oh William!” by US author Elizabeth Strout.