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Sri Lankan author wins Booker Prize for political thriller

Shehan Karunatilaka has won the Booker Prize 2022 for his third novel The seven moons of Maali Almeida.

Maali Almeida, the main character in Shehan Karunatilaka’s book, is a war photographer, and he is dead. In a highly bureaucratic afterlife, he is given seven nights to discover why he is dead and tries to alert his friends on Earth to a collection of photos he has hidden. In addition to being a love story, the book is also a political thriller, set against the background of the Sri Lankan civil war.

This year’s shortlist was particularly broad. Nominated were the prolific American satire writer Percival Everett with The trees, but also the 88-year-old Alan Garner, who has written (youth) novels, short stories and theater since 1960. To be Treacle walker was his first nomination for the Booker Prize. Glory by Zimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo is only her second novel, but also her debut We need new names was nominated for the award.

Oh William!(William’s story) by the American Elizabeth Strout, the third part of her Lucy Barton series, was her first nomination to make the Booker’s shortlist, though the first part kicked, My name is Lucy Bartonit made it to the longlist in 2016. Strout clinched the most important American literary award, the Pulitzer for fiction, in 2009 for Olive Kitteridge. The fifth nominee was Ireland’s Claire Keegan, with Small things like thesea novella.

In his speech, jury chairman Neil McGregor referred to the pandemic and the politically and economically difficult times; according to him, the six nominees all asked the same question: ‘what is the real value of one human life?’ She responded to Karunatilaka’s novel, he said, with “tenderness, humor, fidelity and love.”

Karunatilaka was presented with the award from Queen Consort Camilla, who then stood up for some bacon and beans while the exuberant winner took advantage of the minute allotted to him, the time allotted for a short interview and the closing, to present his fellow nominees. congratulate, thank the three women who had been proofreaders, and add a lengthy statement in Sinhalese. About the prize, which is worth £50,000, he asked: ‘Can I get that in crypto coins? Because the British pound is doing just that little bit better than the Sri Lankan rupee at the moment.’

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