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Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka wins with supernatural satire

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Shehan Karunatilaka receives the Booker Prize trophy from Camilla, the Queen Consort

Booker Prize 2022:

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka, a supernatural satire has won the Booker Prize.

Shehan’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.

Pop singer Dua Lipa was the star guest.

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 have self-censored’

“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.”

He later added that he had “self-censored” a couple of short stories after author Salman Rushdie was stabbed in August, having faced years of death threats for his novel The Satanic Verses, which some Muslims see as blasphemous.

“I was in the process of publishing a collection of short stories when this incident happened, and I discovered a couple which I don’t think was offensive to any religion,” Karunatilaka said.

“But my wife said, can you not do that? You’ve got two young kids. This story is not that good. Just leave it out.”

He added that “this is something that hangs over all of us if we’re writing in South Asia, especially writing about politics or religion”.

Dua Lipa made a speech talking about her “passion” for reading, calling it “one of the most profound joys in the world”.

The singer-songwriter, who was the UK’s most-played artiste of 2020 and recommends books she enjoys on social media, said she had read all six shortlisted books, and “absolutely loved it”.

She spoke about the importance of books in her life, telling the BBC’s Rebecca Jones that reading “helps me navigate through life and understand emotions and feelings, it’s my solace”.

The BBC asked Gaby Wood, Director of the Booker Prize Foundation, if Dua Lipa’s appearance was trying to appeal to younger audiences, and she said: “Our sense is that the Booker Prize is a living thing. You need to try to make sure people think it’s for them.”



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President orders probe into notification issued by Department of Immigration and Emigration

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It has been reported that President Wickremesinghe ordered an investigation into the notification issued by the Department of Immigration and Emigration requesting all  Russian and Ukrainian tourists to leave the country within 14 days.

According to the President’s Media Division (PMD), the relevant notification was issued without prior approval from the Cabinet of Ministers.

The decision had reportedly been taken as certain foreign tourists are running illegal businesses in the country.

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Contentious Chinese research vessel docks in Maldives

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Xiang Yang Hong 03 has previously visited Indian Ocean on several other occasions

A contentious Chinese research ship reached the Maldives on Thursday in the latest sign of the archipelago’s diplomatic reorientation towards Beijing and away from its traditional benefactor India.

Local residents said they had spotted China’s Xiang Yang Hong 3 at the Thilafushi industrial port near the capital Male.The 100-metre-long (328-foot) vessel was at an anchorage near Male on Thursday evening, according to the website Marinetraffic.

The Maldives’ pro-Beijing government said earlier the vessel was docking for a port call to rotate crew and take on supplies, on the condition that it would not conduct “research” while in its territorial waters.

Media reports in India had suggested that the vessel was conducting surveillance for Beijing.

India is suspicious of China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, which are strategically placed halfway along key east-west international shipping routes.Relations between Male and New Delhi have chilled since pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu won elections last year.

Muizzu has asked India to withdraw 89 security personnel based in the Maldives to operate reconnaissance aircraft by March 15.But the president has also insisted he does not want to upend ties with New Delhi by replacing Indian troops with Chinese forces.

Sri Lanka refused entry to Xiang Yang Hong 3 after two other port calls from Chinese vessels since 2022 raised objections from India.That included the ship Yuan Wang 5, which specializes in spacecraft tracking and which New Delhi described as a spy ship. (AFP)

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MP Harsha in Australia as “Special visitor”

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Harsha de Silva

Opposition MP and Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance (COPF) Harsha de Silva is currently in Australia as a special visitor.

Taking to ‘X’, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP said he had embarked on a nine-day visit on an invitation extended by the Government of Australia.

“My engagements with policymakers, academics, scientists and investment managers began in Melbourne and will continue in Adelaide and then public officials and politicians in Canberra,” he added.

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