“You gaze at walls decorated with shots of pangolins and pogroms. They say the truth will set you free, though in Sri Lanka the truth can get you in a cage. And you have no more use for truth or cages or killers or lovers with perfect skin. All you have left are your images of ghosts. They may well be enough.” 

p. 308

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is the first book I read in 2023. Winner of the 2022 Booker Prize, it’is a fascinating novel by Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka. Set in Sri Lanka in the 1980s, the novel begins with the death of Maali Almeida, a war photographer, and his quest to figure out who killed him – and what to do with the afterlife. 

The novel is entertaining, absurd, sometimes satirical and sometimes moving. I didn’t get into it immediately, but I was hooked by the second half. I probably do not know enough about Sri Lanka to appreciate the nuances or to properly differentiate between fiction and reference. 

As a satire, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida at times reminded me of 2016 Booker Prize winner The Sellout by Paul Beatty, which I didn’t get into entirely. I’m also undecided whether the way Maali is written as a closeted gay man is queer, queer baiting or exploitative. 

Have you read The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida? What do you think?

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