(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) – President Ranil Wickremesinghe congratulated Shehan Karunatilaka on winning the Booker Prize for The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida.
The Sri Lankan writer’s novel is about a photographer who wakes up dead, with a week to ask his friends to find his photos and expose the brutality of war.
Camilla, the Queen Consort, presented the prize, and the author said it had been “an honour and a privilege” to be on the shortlist.
The prestigious £50,000 prize, for a single work of fiction published in the UK in English, also gives the other five writers on the shortlist £2,500 each.
The writer said he decided in 2009 to write “a ghost story where the dead could offer their perspective” after the end of the Sri Lankan civil war, “when there was a raging debate over how many civilians died and whose fault it was”.
Head judge Neil MacGregor praised the “scope and the skill, the daring, the audacity and hilarity” of the novel, calling it an “afterlife noir” which “takes the reader on a rollercoaster journey through life and death”.
He said the judges’ decision had been unanimous, adding all of the shortlisted books were “all really about one question, and that is what’s the point of an individual life?”
Karunatilaka said as he accepted his prize: “My hope is that in the not too distant future… Sri Lanka has understood that these ideas of corruption and race-baiting and cronyism have not worked and will never work.
“I hope it’s in print in 10 years… if it is, I hope it’s written in a Sri Lanka that learns from its stories, and that Seven Moons will be in the fantasy section of the bookshop, next to the dragons, the unicorns and will not be mistaken for realism or political satire.”