Shehan Karunatilaka

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Writer (1975)
Sat Oct 29 2022
By   Sushmita22

One of the most recognized authors of Srilanka, Shehan Karunatilaka is the author of The Seven Moons Of Maali Almeida, the recent winner of the Booker Prize. He is also the author of Chinaman: the legend of Pradeep Matthew, the winner of the Commonwealth Book Prize 2012, and declared the second-best cricket book of all time by Wisden.

Karunatilaka was born in Galle, Sri Lanka, in 1975. He spent his childhood in the beautiful city of Colombo, the capital of Srilanka. Along with writing, he has spent his lifetime working on ad agencies, tech firms, media houses, start-ups, and multinational companies across Singapore, London, Colombo, Sydney, and Amsterdam. 

Net Worth

When Shehan Karunatilaka won the Booker Prize, he was awarded prize money of 50,000 pounds ($57,000). Assumingly, his net worth stands at around $200,000, the same as the model Courtney Robertson.

Shehan Karunatilaka
A picture of Shehan Karunatilaka. Source: FAMA

As for Karuntilaka's source of income, he works for several companies and agencies along with writing. Moreover, the sales of his books are not far to become best-selling books of all time.

Early Life & Education

Shehan Karunatalika used to be an advertising copywriter by trade and used to write features for The Guardian, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, Wisden, The Cricketer, Economic Times, Newsweek, and Conde Nast. He was also the bass player in the Sri Lankan band, Independent Square.

Karunatilaka went to S. Thomas Preparatory School in Kollupitiya, Srilanka for his education. Then he pursued his undergraduate studies at Massey University and Whanganui Collegiate School in New Zealand where he studied English literature as well as Business administration.

Is The Author Married? What About Kids?

Yes, the famous author, Shehan Karunatilaka is married and the father of two kids. He lives in Colombo and Kurunegala with his wife and children. 

However, the identity of his wife and children remains anonymous as he hasn't revealed anything about his family.

Shehan Karunatilaka Debut Novel Won The Commonwealth Prize

Actually, the first to be novel by Karunatilaka was The Painter. But the novel never got published. And Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew, his second work became his debut novel. The novel depicts the journey of an alcoholic journalist to track down a missing cricketer from the 1980s. 

The book won the overall Commonwealth Book Prize on 8 June 2012 after winning the regional Commonwealth book prize in Asia on 21st May.

Chinaman: The legend of Pradeep Mathew
The cover of Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew. Source: Amazon

With the great sales of the book, it was selected as one of the Waterstones 11 selected by Waterstones, the British bookseller, as one of the top debuts of 2011. 

It was also shortlisted for the Shakti Bhatt First Novel Prize. Additionally, the book also won the 2008 Gratiaen Prize and 2012 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.

Awarded The Booker Prize of 2022

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, a book written by Karunatilaka, was awarded the Booker Prize in 2022 and he became the second Sri Lankan author to win the Booker Prize. 

At the award's first in-person ceremony since 2019, he received the honor from Queen Consort Camilla. The award was given on Monday (17th October), 2022 evening at London's Roundhouse. The writer said, 

“My hope for ‘Seven Moons’ is that in the not too distant future… it is read in a Sri Lanka that has understood that these ideas of corruption, race-baiting and cronyism have not worked and will never work.”

Shehan Karunatilaka
Shehan Karunatilaka won The Booker Prize of 2022.

Karunatilaka's novel was praised as, "a searing, mordantly funny satire set amid the murderous mayhem of a Sri Lanka beset by civil war", adding that the book was a “whodunnit and a race against time, full of ghosts, gags and a deep humanity", by the panel of judges.

Neil MacGregor, the one who chaired the judging panel called the book "an afterlife noir that dissolves the boundaries not just of different genres, but of life and death, body and spirit, east and west”.

What Is "The Seven Moons Of Maali Almeida" About?

Published in January 2022, Karunatilaka's book, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is a metaphysical thriller that tells the story of a war photographer that was murdered and who wakes up dead. The backdrop is Sri Lanka in the 1990s and features ghosts and spirits of the afterlife.

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida
The cover of "The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida. Source: Goodreads

The war photographer in the novel has what is called "seven moons" and tries to find the mystery behind his death. He also tries to reach out to his people in hopes of guiding them to the pictures that he clicked before his death that show the brutality of the conflict.

In the acceptance speech of the award for the novel, Karunatilaka stated that he wishes to see it in the fantasy section of the bookshop and not mistake it for "realism or political satire". However, the novel is already considered a great satire set amid the mayhem of the Sri Lankan civil war by many.

You start off shooting sunsets and elephants. You end up photographing closeted homos and butchered soldiers.

-The Seven Moons Of Maali Almeida

Karunatilaka Failed Many Times In Life

According to Karunatilaka's website, he has failed many times in life. He wrote that he was a failed cricketer and a failed rockstar. Moreover, he failed to keep his veganism, so he called himself a failed vegan. 

A picture from the author's website. Source:

Is Karunatilaka Active On Social Media?

Disappointingly, Shehan Karunatilaka does not use any kind of social media. It is obvious that he would have many followers as there are many people who want to know about his daily life. 

Readers that want to reach him can contact him through his website. Other than that, Karunatalika has made it clear that he doesn't like to use any social media. But we do hope that the author becomes available on all sorts of social media so that it would be easier for anyone to reach out to him.


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