Shehan Karunatilaka: cricket writer, satirist and Booker Prize winner

Sri Lankan writer Shehan Karunatilaka burst onto the scene with the 2010 award-winning Chinaman, which centered on cricket in Sri Lankan society.

His website describes him as an author 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 over 20 years of experience as a copywriter for advertising agencies, technology companies and media in Singapore, London, Sydney and Amsterdam.

Karunatilaka with his winning book (Booker Prize Foundation/PA)

Karunatilaka has published two novels and three children’s books, and writes sports, music and travel articles for The Guardian, Rolling Stone music magazine and Wisden cricket bible.

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

The novel follows Maali Almeida, who has just been assassinated in the midst of civil war in Colombo in 1990, and finds herself trapped in an underworld waiting room.

He thinks back on who could have killed him, and the list goes on, as he was a photographer who witnessed brutal scenes, in addition to being a gambler and a closeted homosexual.

Karunatilaka grew up in Colombo before studying in New Zealand (Booker Prize Foundation/PA)

In the afterlife, Almeida discovers that he has one week (the title’s seven moons) 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 setup 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 the death of Turkish sex worker Leila as she looks back on her life .

However, Karunatilaka’s novel is firmly set in a pivotal period for Sri Lanka, is funny in bite and deals more with the absurd and the surreal.