The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is a 2022 novel by Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka.[1][2] It won the 2022 Booker Prize, the announcement being made at a ceremony at the Roundhouse in London on 17 October 2022.[3][4][5][6][7][8] The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida was published on 4 August 2022 by the small independent London publisher Sort of Books (ISBN 978-1908745903). An earlier, unrevised version of the novel was originally published in the Indian subcontinent as Chats with the Dead in 2020.[9][10]

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida
Cover of 2022 first edition
AuthorShehan Karunatilaka
Set inSri Lanka
PublisherSort of Books
Publication date
4 August 2022
Media typePrint
Awards2022 Booker Prize
Preceded byChinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew 

Summary edit

The novel is set in Sri Lanka in the 1980s, and written in the second person. The central character, Maali Almeida, is a dead photographer who sets out to solve the mystery of his own death and is given one week ("seven moons") during which he can travel between the afterlife and the real world.[11] In this time, he hopes to retrieve a set of photographs, stored under a bed, and to persuade his friends to share them widely to expose the brutalities of the Sri Lankan Civil War.[1]

Background and publication edit

Karunatilaka wrote his second novel in various versions with different titles. When the first draft was shortlisted for the Gratiaen Prize in 2015, it was titled Devil Dance.[12] It was originally published in the Indian subcontinent as Chats with the Dead in 2020 by Penguin India's Hamish Hamilton imprint.[9][10] Karunatilaka struggled to find an international publisher for the novel because most deemed Sri Lankan politics "esoteric and confusing" and many felt "the mythology and worldbuilding was impenetrable, and difficult for Western readers."[12] The independent British publishing house Sort of Books agreed to publish the novel after editing to "make it familiar to Western readers." Karunatilaka revised the work for two years due to its publication being delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. He has commented: "I'd say it's the same book, but it benefits from two years of tightening and is much more accessible. It is a bit confusing to have the same book with two different titles, but I think the eventual play is that The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida will become the definitive title and text."[12]

Reception edit

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida won the 2022 Booker Prize, announced at a ceremony at The Roundhouse in London on 17 October 2022,[13][14][15][16] the award being presented to the author by Queen Camilla.[17] The judges – the panel comprising Neil MacGregor (chair), Shahidha Bari, Helen Castor, M. John Harrison and Alain Mabanckou – said that the novel "fizzes with energy, imagery and ideas against a broad, surreal vision of the Sri Lankan civil wars. Slyly, angrily comic."[3][18]

Review coverage edit

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida was characterised by Charlie Connelly in The New European as "part ghost story, part whodunnit, part political satire ... a wonderful book about Sri Lanka, friendship, grief and the afterlife".[19] The verdict of The Sydney Morning Herald was: "Original, sensational, imaginative, political, mysterious, romantic: it is obvious why this novel won the prize. ...It has the bleak power of Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago. And unlike that great book it is relentlessly, shockingly funny."[20]

The review by Randy Boyagoda in The New York Times said that the novel "offers a very palatable combination of literary-political-ethical challenges, enjoyments and validations to its readers, including a sense of timeliness."[21] Literary Review observed: "Witty, inventive and moving, Karunatilaka’s prose is gloriously free of cliché, and despite the apparent cynicism of his smart-alec narrator, this is a deeply moral book that eschews the simple moralising of so much contemporary fiction."[22]

Describing the novel as "brilliant", the TLS review continued: "It is messy and chaotic in all the best ways. It is also a pleasure to read: Karunatilaka writes with tinder-dry wit and an unfaltering ear for prose cadences."[23] The Financial Times reviewer concluded: "The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is an ambitious novel, epic in scope (mixing tropes from thrillers, crime fiction and magic realism) and a powerful evocation of Sri Lanka's brutal past."[24]

References edit

  1. ^ a b Owolade, Tomiwa (9 August 2022). "The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka review – life after death in Sri Lanka". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 October 2022.
  2. ^ Lezard, Nicholas (10 September 2022). "A ghoulish afterlife: The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, by Shehan Karunatilaka, reviewed". The Spectator. Retrieved 17 October 2022.
  3. ^ a b "The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida". The Booker Prizes. Retrieved 17 October 2022.
  4. ^ Bayley, Sian (6 September 2022). "Garner, Bulawayo and Strout on Booker shortlist". The Bookseller. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
  5. ^ Bayley, Sian (17 October 2022). "Karunatilaka wins Booker Prize with 'audacious' The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida". The Bookseller. Retrieved 18 October 2022.
  6. ^ Shaffi, Sarah (17 October 2022). "Shehan Karunatilaka wins Booker prize for The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida". The Guardian.
  7. ^ Alter, Alexandra (17 October 2022). "Shehan Karunatilaka Wins Booker Prize for 'The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida'". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Chilton, Martin (17 October 2022). "Booker Prize 2022 winner The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is compelling about conflict – but not a simple read". The Independent.
  9. ^ a b Jayasinghe, Pasan (7 September 2022). "Shehan Karunatilaka: 'The state will come after the defenceless'". Retrieved 18 October 2022.
  10. ^ a b Chakrabarti, Paromita (18 October 2022). "Sri Lankan author wins Booker: Meet Shehan Karunatilaka and Maali Almeida". The Indian Express. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 20–49. Retrieved 18 October 2022.
  11. ^ Krishnan, Nikhil (18 October 2022). "Booker 2022: The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka review: a bawdy, wisecracking winner". The Telegraph.
  12. ^ a b c Jayasinghe, Pasan (18 October 2022). "Shehan Karunatilaka: 'The state will come after the defenceless'". Frontline. The Hindu Group. Retrieved 18 October 2022.
  13. ^ "The Booker Prize 2022 | The Booker Prizes". Retrieved 5 October 2022.
  14. ^ Shaffi, Sarah (26 July 2022). "Booker prize longlist of 13 writers aged 20 to 87 announced". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 July 2022.
  15. ^ "Shehan Karunatilaka's The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida longlisted for 2022 Booker Prize". The Sunday Times. 26 July 2022. Retrieved 26 July 2022.
  16. ^ Ismail, Adilah (31 July 2022). "It's always a thril to have a book of yours make a list: Shehan". The Sunday Times.
  17. ^ "Shehan Karunatilaka's Novel "The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida" Wins Booker Prize 2022". YouTube. 18 October 2022. Retrieved 6 November 2022.
  18. ^ Bayley, Sian (26 July 2022). "Booker Prize longlist dominated by indies as judges pick youngest and oldest ever nominees". The Bookseller. Retrieved 30 July 2022.
  19. ^ Connelly, Charlie (28 July 2022). "Sri Lanka in purgatory". The New European.
  20. ^ Elliott, Helen (26 October 2022). "It's obvious why this sensational novel won the Booker Prize".
  21. ^ Boyagoda, Randy (28 October 2022). "The Hero of This Novel Is Dead. He'd Like to Find Out Why". The New York Times.
  22. ^ Lawton, Frank (October 2022). "Dead Man Talking". The Literary Review. Retrieved 6 November 2022.
  23. ^ McLoughlin, Kate (16 September 2022). "There are no good guys: Death and blame in the lethal game of 'Lankan roulette'". TLS. Retrieved 6 November 2022.
  24. ^ Popescu, Lucy (7 October 2022). "The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida — the living dead". Financial Times.