Shehan Karunatilaka: cricket writer, satirist and now Booker Prize-winner (Booker Prize Foundation/PA)
17 October 2022

Shehan Karunatilaka: Cricket writer, satirist and Booker Prize winner

17 October 2022

Sri Lankan writer Shehan Karunatilaka first burst on to the scene with 2010’s award-winning Chinaman, centring around cricket in Sri Lankan society.

His website describes him as a writer of “punchlines, manifestos and calls-to-action”.

Born in Galle in southern Sri Lanka in 1975, Karunatilaka grew up in Colombo before studying in New Zealand.

He has more than 20 years of experience working as a copywriter for ad agencies, tech firms and media houses across Singapore, London, Sydney and Amsterdam.

Karunatilaka has published two novels and three children’s books, and written features on sport, music and travel for The Guardian, music magazine Rolling Stone and cricket bible Wisden.

The Booker Prize-winning Seven Moons Of Maali Almeida is his second novel, and another satire skewering his home country.

The novel follows Maali Almeida, who has just been murdered amid civil war in Colombo in 1990, and finds himself trapped in an underworld waiting room.

He thinks back to who might have killed him, and the list is long, as he was a photographer who witnessed some brutal scenes, as well as being a gambler and a closeted homosexual.

In the afterlife, Almeida finds out he has a week (the seven moons of the title) to find his friend Jaki and her cousin, and convince them to find his stash of revealing photographs and show them to the world.

The set-up is reminiscent of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World by Elif Shafak, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2019, and followed the minutes after Turkish sex worker Leila’s death as she looks back at her life.

However, Karunatilaka’s novel is firmly set in a pivotal time for Sri Lanka, is bitingly funny and deals more with absurdism and surrealism.

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