"a book that takes the reader on a rollercoaster journey through life"
Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka has won the 2022 Booker Prize for fiction.
The judges praised the “ambition of its scope, and the hilarious audacity of its narrative techniques”.
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is his second novel after his debut, Chinaman, which was published in 2011.
It tells the story of Maali Almeida, a dead photographer who is given one week, during which he can travel between the afterlife and the real world.
With no idea who killed him, Maali has seven moons to contact the people he loves most and lead them to a hidden cache of photos of civil war atrocities that will rock Sri Lanka.
Neil MacGregor, chair of the judges, said the novel was chosen because “it’s a book that takes the reader on a rollercoaster journey through life and death right to what the author describes as the dark heart of the world”.
He added: “And there the reader finds, to their surprise, joy, tenderness, love and loyalty.”
MacGregor was joined on the judging panel by academic and broadcaster Shahidha Bari, historian Helen Castor, novelist and critic M John Harrison and novelist, poet and professor Alain Mabanckou.
The judges were unanimous in their decision to award the prize to Karunatilaka.
As he accepted his prize, Shehan Karunatilaka said:
“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.”
For the 2022 event, the original 1969 Booker Prize trophy was reinstated in memory of its creator, children’s author and illustrator Jan Pienkowski, who passed away in February 2022.
The event took place at the Roundhouse in London.
It was hosted by comedian Sophie Duker and popstar Dua Lipa was the special guest.
Queen Consort Camilla presented Karunatilaka with the trophy while 2021 winner Damon Galgut presented the author with his prize money of £50,000.
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is published by the independent press Sort of Books.
It is the first time that a book by the publisher has been longlisted for the prize.
Shehan Karunatilaka has become the second Sri Lankan-born author to win the Booker Prize, following Michael Ondaatje, who won in 1992 with The English Patient.