Book Club

Book Club: Booker Prize winner Shehan Karunatilaka

Booker Prize winning author Shehan Karunatilaka.

Booker Prize winning author Shehan Karunatilaka. Image: Dominic Sansoni

Beatrice Di Caro
Social Media and Live Communications Lead, Digital Media, World Economic Forum
Kate Whiting
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • The World Economic Forum spoke to author Shehan Karunatilaka about his Booker Prize winning novel The Seven Moons Of Maali Almeida.
  • He spoke about his motivation for writing the book, how he relates to his central character and his literary heroes.
  • Subscribe to the Book Club Podcast here.
  • And get our weekly podcast Radio Davos here.

The World Economic Forum Book Club Podcast transcript: Shehan Karunatilaka on his Booker Prize winning novel The Seven Moons Of Maali Almeida

This transcript has been generated using speech recognition software and may contain errors. Please check its accuracy against the audio.

Beatrice Di Caro: From the World Economic Forum, I’m Beatrice Di Caro and this is the Book Club podcast. In this episode, we’re joined by author and recent Booker Prize winner, Shehan Karunatilaka, to discuss his award-winning book The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida.

The book tells the story of a Sri Lankan war photographer, who realises he’s in a processing centre for souls in the afterlife and sets out to solve his own murder, which involves leading his friends to a box of incriminating photos under a bed.

It’s only the author’s second novel, following his debut Chinaman, in 2011, for which he won the Commonwealth Prize. He’s also written children’s books, rock songs and screenplays.

Shehan was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in Colombo and studied in New Zealand - and he’s lived and worked in Singapore, Amsterdam and London.

My colleague Kate Whiting joined me to interview Shehan and we started by asking him what Maali’s story is all about.

Have you read?

Shehan: Well, it's complicated is the short answer, but at its heart, it's a murder mystery, about a dead war photographer, solving his own murder. But it's set during 1989, during a time when Sri Lanka was fighting three wars at the same time. It's also a political thriller in that this war photographer has got photographs under his bed of the atrocities of the Sri Lankan tragedies and he's gonna expose this. So that's another motivation, but also it's an imagining of the afterlife. There's a love triangle at the centre of it, there's a lot of ghosts, ghostly philosophizing and a few jokes, so many moving parts. But in a sentence, it's about a dead war photographer given seven moons to make peace with his life.


Beatrice: I've had the pleasure of reading it and I studied photojournalism myself, so the whole war photography aspect of it really, really called to me.

Shehan: Did you go to any war zones?

Beatrice: I did not, that was one of the career paths I wanted to go with, but I'm at the Forum doing social media and I work with authors, so it just...

Shehan: No one's shooting at you.

Beatrice: Exactly.

Shehan: Fair enough.

Beatrice: So it's still very creative, but in a very different way. What motivated you to write the book?

Shehan: Well one was my first book Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew was about cricket and a drunk sports journalist. I was a bit tired of talking about cricket and I'm not an expert and there's plenty of cricket experts, especially in our part of the world.

So I wanted to write something very different for the second one. And I was interested in doing a ghost story, but not a traditional one, mainly because I started thinking about this in 2010, 2011, right after the end of the war in 2009, Sri Lanka's 30-year war. And it just seemed like, instead of looking at the lessons that could be learned from the tragedies, there was a lot of laying of blame, arguing, and talking about the civilians that died in the final phase of the war and just arguing about whose fault it was. So I thought, what if the dead could speak? What if the victims of Sri Lanka's many wars could speak? What would they have to say about Sri Lanka and about how it treated them? And that was really what motivated me to write this.


So sadly, going back over Sri Lanka's history, in my lifetime, there were many tragedies to choose from, many unsolved murders and, ghost stories that I could pick. And I chose 1989 because I remember that as a teenager being quite, it was, you know, you had a civil war, between the Tamil separatists, the LTTE, and the Sri Lankan army, and then you had a Marxist insurrection down south. And you had government death squads 'disappearing' young radicals, and you also had the Indian peacekeeping force, with boots on the ground and many secret service, arms dealers, foreign interest running around. If I was writing a thriller, this would be too many plots. If I was writing fiction, I would say, 'Let's take out a few of these', but this is what the case was.

And all I remember as a teenager, I was insulated in Colombo, but I do remember dead bodies on the sides of the road and no one knew who, why they died or who killed them because there were so many different explanations.

So '89 seems like ancient history even though it's 30, 40 years ago. And, so that's why, that's what motivated me and I was fascinated by this time because I lived through it, but as a teenager in Colombo, sheltered away from it. So I didn't really have a comprehension of it, but I interviewed people who were, who were in parts of the country where it was less safe and they had to bear the brunt of the wars being fought and, and of course researched it, it was well documented. And also I felt it was far enough back in the past that it wasn't gonna get me into trouble 'cos many of the main antagonists were no longer with us, they'd all been assassinated or killed in some act violence. So, so that, that was really the motivation. But then once I got into it and the character Maali Almeida emerged, yeah, it took on different levels and became a bit more of a spiritual tale as well as a political one.


What is the World Economic Forum's Book Club?

Beatrice: Of course. And the aspect of death is one that we wanted to ask you about, and I know Kate will come back to that in a bit. But, first of all, congratulations on the Booker Prize.

Shehan: Thank you very much.

Beatrice: What was that like winning the Booker Prize? What has the global reaction been to the book?

Shehan: Yeah, so you go into these things knowing the odds, kind of like Maali Almeida, though I'm not a gambler, but you go in there knowing it's a one in six chance, and you know, the long list, any book could, you know, at that level, you can't second guess this, even though people try and bet on it. So you go in with that mindset and you'd be delighted with a Booker short list, a novel coming out of Colombo. I was... so you go in with that Zen attitude and then your name gets called, and then that's when the terror begins. Right? So you do it, but I mean, luckily I had a few notes jotted down in my pocket, you don't wanna wing it in this situation after after a few glasses of wine and with the cameras on you.

It's wonderful and completely unexpected, pretty surreal.

Shehan Karunatilaka
Shehan Karunatilaka Booker Prize 2022 winner World Economic Forum Book Club Podcast The Seven Moons Of Maali Almeida
Shehan Karunatilaka talsk about his Booker Prize winning novel The Seven Moons Of Maali Almeida, on the World Economic Forum Book Club Podcast

So I managed to give my speech and all that, and it was, it's died, it's, it's a lot more manageable now, but the aftermath of it was, of course your phone's going ping, ping all through the night and just a lot of press, a lot of interviews, and so there was a lot of activity for the next 48 hours. So, and yeah, the reaction, I've been following bits on Twitter and Facebook and all the messages. It's been mainly positive and I just don't know how I'm gonna reply to all of these. I think it's going to take me as long as it took to write the novel to, to do that. It's over seven moons, but it's less than two weeks since the win. So obviously I know this is going to change, change my career. And I didn't even know I had a career after one book. I had a day job and so on. So now, yeah, it'll creep up on me over the next few weeks, and especially when I go back to Sri Lanka eventually.

It's wonderful and completely unexpected, pretty surreal. But it's, it's been, I've been quite grateful for it.

Kate: So you are what Pico Iyer the journalist would describe as a global soul. I believe that you have studied in New Zealand and lived in London, Amsterdam, and Singapore. What do you think those global perspectives bring to your writing?

Shehan: So I grew up in Sri Lanka, but I spent my childhood in Birmingham, Wordsley. I went and visited there on the weekend. But I grew up in Sri Lanka, then I studied in New Zealand and lived in Singapore and London. I've tried to write about those places throughout, even in my twenties and I haven't felt permission or, and also it's all well-trodden ground if I write about London, write about Amsterdam and and I've never felt... And I've always started writing these books when I was away.

I think Chinaman, I was writing when I was in London. This one I started when I was in Singapore, and that sort of brings me back. So I don't know what the global... I think there's perhaps a Kiwi sense of humour there. And, but I do notice this thing that, when I'm away I tend to focus more on Sri Lanka and it sort of drags me back because I don't feel I'm able to write when I was in Singapore. I do feel Sri Lankan writing, insider versus outsider writing. I think for a lot of time when I was growing up, a lot of the writing was outsiders or even expat writers coming in and observing it.

And now we're reading a lot more of people who are based there and, and, and writing about it. So, yeah, I think Sri Lanka's a constant source of stories, so I think I'll always keep returning.


Kate: It's been more than a decade since your debut Chinaman that you mentioned. And I wonder what the journey was of getting this book to publication. So, in those intervening years we've had a pandemic, and, and you've had children. Can you talk us through that journey to the second novel?

Shehan: I think all the writers I've spoken to say the pandemic was great for writing. I mean, it was a traumatic time for the world, but I think a lot of us were quite productive. But I mean, I'm getting to the end, that's the final stage. Before, like I said, this was before children, but I was working in Singapore in a corporate job, but watching this debate, it was the battle of the documentaries online, people arguing over, not over the people who died, eventually we figured 40,000 I think is the settled on figure for that final phase of the war. But just arguing whose fault it was. And I saw, I was observing this, but I was working full time and I didn't have time to really sit down with it. It only happened when I returned to Sri Lanka after the birth of our children.

And it went through many false... perhaps I'll blame my children, I always do, having a one-year-old and three-year-old, trying to think up ghostly political stories during that time was challenging. So it went through many, many drafts and phases and ideas. I think the early version was a slasher horror of a bus going around the tsunami-ravaged coast.

So this was set in 2004. It, it didn't quite pan out, but the only thing that remained from that was the ghost on the bus, which was a ghost called Maali Almeida. So I used to travel to Singapore, do some freelance, come back and write. So there was a lot of breaks in between. But when I came back, the Maali Almeida character seemed fascinating and his voice arrived in the second person. And that's when it really took off that I started, the pages started flowing and...

But still it was as we've outlined quite a complex book becuase it had all these moving parts, all these instruments playing at different times, and finished it in 2020 or thought I'd finished it and Indian publishers were quite enthusiastic, because Chinaman, you know, had quite a cult following there, so they were eager for the follow-up. I suspected that it needed some work because it seemed a bit confused but they seemed quite happy to take it. And we published it just before the pandemic but then we struggled to find publishers outside, in the UK and the US finding it confusing, difficult, and thought it would alienate a lot of readers.

The Maali Almeida character seemed fascinating and his voice arrived in the second person. That's when it really took off... the pages started flowing.

Shehan Karunatilaka

So that's when Natania Jansz from Sort Of Books who I'd had, you know, she'd been a very generous reader. She's Sri Lankan and her husband Mark Ellingham of Sort Of Books I met in Sri Lanka. We'd been friends over the years and then we sat together. She took it on and said it needs significant work. And we took it on to make it more accessible to a Western audience. But then we ended up, it was the pandemic. So the production, publication date just kept getting pushed. 2020 became 2021. And so we ended up just moving things around, rewriting bits so it went through extensive edits after that.

And it's a bit strange to be rewriting a book that you think you are done with, but I did appreciate how much it got better. I could, despite initially... I mean, I write copy for a living and yeah, every time the client comes back with changes, you die a little, but you deal with it. But then in this process, I did realize it got better and better and better. And obviously it was time well spent because this is where we ended up with it.

Kate: I found it very refreshing to read a book, written in the second person and I just wondered if you could talk us through the thought process around that. It made it a very immersive experience for me as the reader, but why did you choose to write it like that?

Shehan: Well, I think both books, I've started off trying to write it in the third person and, and with this, it was obvious to write it in the first person. I just, it was again, a technical, I had a lot of technical problems to solve with constructing the afterlife and the rules of the afterlife and also the question of what does a disembodied voice sound like? I can't really describe this, though I do, I mean, he has this sensation of having a body and he describes it.

What does a disembodied voice sound like?... It's perhaps the voice in your head. That's the thing that survives your death... Is it your soul? Your conscience?

Shehan Karunatilaka

But what does it sound like? And then I figured it, it's perhaps the voice in your head. That's the thing that survives your death. What is that voice? Is it your soul? Your conscience? Whatever it could be, but the voice in your head. And I realized the voice in my head is the second person. I don't know everyone else's heads, but that just seems to be... It's like someone else telling me what I should have done or what I shouldn't have done. And, I think with all these experiments when you start writing, I just noticed again, like with the first book when I decided to tell it from a drunken uncle sports writer character's point of view, it really flowed.

And same thing I found here. And then, I mean, that's dissected also in the book - who the 'you' is and, is it Maali or is it another aspect of Maali? And I've noticed now we're doing the audiobook, and this is without prompting for me, the voice actor is, there's a slightly different voice for the narrative. The narrative is in one register, but when Maali speaks in character, there's a bit more the accent to it. And I thought that's actually quite correct because it's not the person 'you' telling the story, it's not quite Maali, even though, and I don't want to give too much away, but all these reasons, it just seemed logical and I think the main proof is the story flowed from that.

So that was the decision behind it. And you are also wary that it could get cloying. I mean, I've written short stories in the second person, but to have a long novel that way. But yeah, it seems to have worked and, people have responded to it.


Beatrice: Completely. Looking at the book, what was your favorite part in the book? Is there a moment? Is there a line? Is there something that, when you think about it, really stands out to you? Is there, without giving too much away to our audience, but is there one moment that really just comes right back?

Shehan: No, I have to think about this. This is, what's your... when you've been rewriting it so long it's hard to think of bits that, because everything has gone through so much revision. I would say the thing that, and I haven't read it since finishing it, but the thing that I remember is the dead leopard and I don't want to give up way too many spoilers, but that guy appeared. And the decision to include talking animals in this mythology was also, I didn't come to it lightly.

But the dead leopard appeared and grew in prominence and I believe, again, no spoilers, but could end up the hero of the book, in my opinion. So I remember that's surprising me. It's a character that you didn't really plan for that emerges and somehow becomes the voice. So those bits. But I also remember enjoying, I mean, I don't say enjoying writing because it's all hard work, but enjoying the bits where the love triangle, which is not talked about and which is again, the soul of the book.

Those characters again started behaving in their own way towards each other. Something I didn't contrive too much. And that's always the gift when you're writing, because you do a lot of plotting, especially with a complex book like this. But when elements, seem to act on their own and shape things, I do remember those two bits.

The other stuff, I mean the, the political stuff and the afterlife stuff I just remember as being technical problems to solve. Okay, where can a ghost go? How can they communicate with the living? These were technical problems to solve and so I, I see the hard work behind them, but I think these, these two elements seem to come organically and that would be my favorite bits.

The seven moons is the classic ticking clock in any thriller.

Shehan Karunatilaka

Beatrice: You mentioned that a lot of the rewriting was because it needed to appeal more to a Western audience. What was that work like? How did you make the book more global? I read somewhere that the book in the magic realism genre, if you want to call it that, which makes me think of Marquez and Colombia. But how did you make those changes from what seemed maybe not global enough?

Shehan: Well, firstly, I think, the Sri Lankan political situation in '89 was quite complicated, as we've outlined earlier. And so I think you don't, you shouldn't have to be knowledgeable about Sri Lankan politics of the 1980s to appreciate the book. And this is also a brief for my first book, was you don't have to be into cricket or understand or know anything about Sri Lanka to appreciate Chinaman. And that was that. So I had little cheat notes in the first 50 pages that gets the reader on the... gives them enough background. Same approach here. There's a chapter early on that sort of summarizes, it's almost a glossary, but it's not quite, I'm not a fan of glossaries in fiction.

But it gives the cheat. So that that was something that was enhanced. I think it was there in the previous version. So that was one thing to just make clear what, who the various factions were, but also the rules of the afterlife. I guess things like rebirth and demons and hungry ghosts. We take it for granted here. And I mean, every culture has their ghost stories, but I think just unraveling that mythology. So I think that was initially, that's what we looked at.

But then we again looked at pacing and that, so as I say, you have two years, you keep tinkering with it. So will a Western reader now get completely confused and not proceed with the book? Should we make it easier for them and take this bit out and make sure? So that's, I think, the murder mystery and the political thriller plot, we enhance that. So there are genre cues, which you can follow and, and pacing it - I mean, the seven moons is the classic ticking clock in any thriller, and that was so I think things like that.

But also I'm a fan of genre fiction and so I think I also agreed with these changes. You don't want it to be seen as a difficult book and that you need insider and knowledge to appreciate it. So those were the changes initially. Over the months we started looking at character and also political commentary that may not quite land or places where things were repeated.

That was the lens is you can pick up this book and have no knowledge of Sri Lanka and still have enough to follow the plot and appreciate it and enjoy it. Hopefully.


Kate: I wanted to come back to the, you mentioned the love triangle, and two of the main characters in that are obviously Maali and DD and so I wanted to ask you about Maali. How much of yourself is in him as a character, if any at all. And because you are a writer and so you are an observer of people and he's a photographer, you've sort of, both of you have that sort of step back and you are looking at the world through different lenses, and whether you sort of related to him on that level.

Shehan: Like I said, '89, I looked at unsolved murders. And one very famous case was Richard de Zoysa, who I think is the opening epigram to the book, who was a playwright, activist, journalist and also closeted gay man and who was murdered in 1989 or 1990. And so that was the starting point. And of course Maali evolved to become a war photographer and a gambler and so on. And so I didn't really think of, and neither with the first book I'm writing about a drunkard twice my age from a different generation, different values. So I was sort of looking at the story through this guy's eyes.

And I think if anything, what, what you see of me is the Colombo guilt, the kind of the Colombo bubble, the guilt of being middle-class Colombo during time when terrible things are happening around the island. I wasn't really affected. I mean, you grew up with this consciousness of forever war, so obviously there is some that seeps into you, but I wasn't really affected by it and I knew that people were suffering and of course I didn't do too much about it, apart from write a novel 30 years later.

But Maali was, just like Mathew in Chinaman, was this, because I used to bowl left arm spin, but I wasn't very good at it. It was this fantasy version of the cricketer I could become. I guess this guy was this activist who actually went out into the war zones and did something about it and used his creativity.

So his, I mean, I'm not a very good photographer. I can barely take a selfie, but I appreciate, I'm surrounded by people who can, and went in and observed and wanted to use their art to stop things. I don't know if I'm quite that idealistic or quite that brave, but certainly the Colombo guilt thing was something that I really noticed in him and I thought, yeah, that's coming from, from a real place. And it's later when I found out, interviewing people that I... you don't appreciate the extent of things and maybe it's better not to. How do you process these things as a 14-year-old? But really Maali, I've also been asked, and I got this feedback during the draft that Maali's not a very likable character.

I don't know if I'd want to hang out with him. I'd certainly want to hang out with WG from Chinaman - watch a cricket match, drink some arrack, sounds like a fun guy. This guy not so [much]. Or even DD, maybe Jaki, the third point of the triangle. Jaki, I think perhaps, but I, and then I thought, and I think it's not a problem. I don't think characters need to be likeable for you to follow them. They just, you just need to be rooting for them or understand their motivation.

But I don't know if there's much of me apart from being in the Colombo bubble in Maali. But I enjoyed writing about him. I was fascinated by him.

I don't think characters need to be likable for you to follow them... You just need to be rooting for them or understand their motivation.

Shehan Karunatilaka

Kate: I wanted to pick up on death and, I know you said this is a satire and there are some real elements to it that are quite horrific in nature actually, some of the scenes you describe, and obviously you're talking about the atrocities of war and you can't avoid that. But at its heart, this is a guy who's died, he's now in the afterlife, and we see the moment where his, he, his friends and his mom find out that he has died. And he sees that from above and it's just a really interesting exploration of death, I think, and I feel particularly coming from the UK, we tend to shy away from talking about death. Other countries, you know, Mexico in particular, they celebrate death. I just wonder what your take is on, do you think it's something as a society where you ought to be more comfortable being able to talk about?

Shehan: Yes, I mean, I'm not sure Sri Lankans are any more comfortable talking about it. But, but you are talking about death in general, right? The fact that we all face it and we all avoid it. Sri Lanka, we don't talk about tragic death. That's why setting it in a police station, that's where, where you meet his family and so on, and these two cops who are not going to solve the murder.

For me, it was just figuring out what the afterlife could be like. I came up with this absurd conceit that it was disorganized and... but I think rather than debt, it's, it's memory. That is the theme of the book, how you look back on life. I think that's... how you look back on your past. And I think that's a theme for Sri Lanka. The idea of do you, do you bury the past or do you, do you dig it up?

And it's the same for Maali. He's got two sort of voices in both his ears, one saying, 'Just leave it behind. There's nothing you can do, move on, towards the light'. And another one saying, 'No, we need to right the wrongs of your past. And that's the only way things can change'. And that debate is happening in Sri Lanka and we tend to go with the notion that yeah, it's bygones. No point dredging up this stuff. And I think, I'm sure that that criticism will be leveled at this novel once people have got over the excitement and have a chance to read it, why are we talking about '83 and '89 when we have present crises?


Beatrice: What do you hope people will take away from the, from the novel? What's the main message you wanted to, or thought, you wanted to leave them with?

Shehan: Well, I think in my speech I said I hope it gets filed under fantasy in the bookshop and doesn't get mistaken for political satire or reality or statement on the current situation 'cos I've been asked many of those questions by people who perhaps haven't read the book, but see, okay, Sri Lanka's in crisis again. We've seen it in the news and are there parallels and, and so on. Like I said, I just set out to write a ghost story and a murder mystery, and that's, that's why you start off, tell a good story.

And I've used these elements. Though my first book was, just about cricket, and arrack and I consciously wanted to write a Sri Lanka book that didn't talk about these subjects. That, because again, that was my Colombo bubble experience, that it was possible to live the nineties watching cricket. When Sri Lanka won the World Cup in '96, there was a moment where the whole country just escaped into just watching the cricket team. There's been many messages. They, they come out later in the writing, but that, that was really my hope. But now that I've had time to think about it and, and answer lots of questions about it, I do think the idea of going back to our past is not and the idea of highlighting it doesn't make you a trait or treasonous. Or unpatriotic.

I think that's, that's an act of love if you are, if you're going back and criticizing your country and looking where things went so terribly wrong. So I suppose my hope is that, especially the young go back, 'cos I don't know if these things are taught in school. We're taught about our, our ancient kings, we're talk taught about our British and the Portuguese and the Dutch colonizers.

I think that's an act of love if you are going back and criticizing your country and looking where things went so terribly wrong.

Shehan Karunatilaka

But I don't know if we're taught about history of my lifetime, the last 20, 30, 40 years. And I would say that would be my hope that this peaks interest to go back and read about these things and understand them and then see parallels with, and there are no parallels at the moment apart from the crisis.

I mean, today's Sri Lanka is, Sri Lankans are suffering, but it's nothing compared to the terror and the horror of '89 and '83. And I hope we never ever get there, but so I, I suppose that that would be my message, that there are lessons in Sri Lanka's past that maybe we haven't cared to listen to. And that we should.

Beatrice: I feel like living in different places and coming from different places, I, I really identify with that. I come from three different countries, but grew up in Asia my whole life. So books and literature have really helped me identify with my culture and reconnect with moments of history that I may not understand having lived abroad. So, I think that's a really powerful way of, of looking at it.

Beatrice: One last question for our audience who are some of your favorite authors, who would you recommend, who are you reading right now? Is there any book you go back to and reread?

Shehan: Yeah, so I mean, with this one, the three writers who I've also thanked in the acknowledgements were Kurt Vonnegut, George Saunders and Douglas Adams. I just kept turning to them every time, just kept them close at hand and Cormac McCarthy was so, I mean, you can see the common thread in those three. They're all talking about pretty grim subjects, you know, Kurt Vonnegut talking about how humanity's civilization's destroying itself, Douglas Adams about the meaninglessness of life and man's insignificance in the universe, but they're all riots, they're all hilarious and great rides, and Cormac McCarthy, not too many jokes there, so that was for the violence.

But I just say, yeah, George Saunders, the talking ghost book that won the Booker, and I thought they're never gonna give another talking ghost book a Booker. And I got to meet the great man right after my South Bank show. He was at the South Bank and got to exchange some words and take a selfie, so I've had my fanboy movement as well. But certainly Kurt Vonnegut is the one I keep returning to, it's for Chinaman, the curmudgeonly, drunk Uncle tone, even though it's a sad story of a man drinking himself to death. So I lent heavily on Kurt, Uncle Kurt, I should say.

With Sri Lanka writing again, we've had a great heritage and Ondaatje, Gunasekera and Carl Muller, who I keep talking about, who was not as celebrated as these two or Shyam Selvadurai in the nineties. But when allowed us, I felt, wrote how Sri Lankan spoke, and that was quite inspiring. I could never write as elegantly as Ondaatje, Gunasekera or Selvadurai, but I could certainly write like Carl Muller. So these were like the formative influences and these were the immediate influences.

At the moment I'm reading... so I was stuck on a train from Birmingham to London. It's supposed to take only one hour, but I was stuck for like eight hours. It was lucky the kids weren't with us, just me and my wife. I was amazed by how patient the British were, in Sri Lanka, who knows, they might have set fire to the train, I don't know, but the people were very patient and we got through it, but in that time I read two of the, not, I didn't finish, but two of the Booker shortlists. So Percival Everett, The Trees and Elizabeth Strout, O William!, I'm halfway through both, two very, very different books.

I mean, I expected to Percival Everett's The Trees, it seemed like my down my street. Was quite surprised by Elizabeth Strout, but they both, both were gripping me. So yeah, that's what I, I hope to make my way through the long list. While, because I think, you know, I'm, I'm not just saying this, leading up to this, you know, I've been following all the BookTubers and the BookTokers 'cos you know, we couldn't get books to Sri Lanka. We have a petrol crisis. You've gotta get petrol and gas before books. And just thinking, these are books that I'd like to read and I'd wanna find out more. So I think that's what I'm gonna geek out on Booker winners, for a while. Oh, and, but yeah, maybe less ghost stories and less cricket stories. I think I'm a bit done with that subject.

That was Booker Prize winner author Shehan Karunatilaka speaking to Kate Whiting and myself.

Big thanks for joining us on the World Economic Forum Book Club Podcast.

Please subscribe to this podcast and best of all, leave us a review. Don’t forget to join our Book Club on Facebook which is coming up on 200 thousand followers - and to discuss podcasts, please join the WEF podcast club, also on Facebook. And of course, please search out our sister podcasts, Radio Davos and Meet The Leader wherever you get your podcasts.

This episode of the Book Club Podcast was presented by my colleague Kate Whiting and myself, Beatrice Di Caro. Production was with Gareth Nolan and thanks to our podcast editor Robin Pomeroy.

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The Booker Prize 2023 has a winner. Here's a summary of the novel and a round-up of the runners-up

Ian Shine

November 27, 2023


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