BOOKS – Sri Lankan writer Shehan Karunatilaka won the prestigious Monday night Booker Prize British 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.
The literary prize was awarded to him in London by the queen consort Camilladuring one of her main public appearances since the accession to the throne of her husband the King Charles IIIfor the first in-person Booker Prize ceremony since 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Shehan Karunatilaka, 47, is the second Sri Lankan-born writer to win the Booker Prize, after Michael Ondaatje in 1992 for The English Patient.
In The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, This darkly humorous murder case is set in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, in the post-civil war 1990s. It follows 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 don’t work and never will”.
Five of these six finalist writers present, the dean of the selected, all editions combined, Alan Garner, 88, made an appearance by videoconference. Garner, was selected for his novel Treacle Walker.
Also in the running was the short novel by Irish writer Claire Keegan, Small Things Like This (These kind of little things), which won the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction in mid-July. It tells, in 116 pages, the story of a timber and coal merchant in Ireland in 1985.
Two other novelists already selected by the Booker Prize appeared on the final list: the Zimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo for Gloryand the American Elizabeth Strout for Ah William!.
Finally, the American Percival Everett had been selected for The Treeswhich revisits the 1955 lynching of young African-American Emmet Till in Mississippi.
Last year, 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.
The winner wins the reward of 50,000 pounds (about 60,000 euros) and the assurance of international fame.
Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood and Hilary Mantel, who died aged 70 last month, are among the writers who received the prize for novels written in English published in the United Kingdom or Ireland.
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Queen Camilla presents Booker Prize to Sri Lankan writer Shehan Karunatilaka