This 2022 Booker Prize winner book is like no other. The protagonist, Maali Almeida is dead. He has been killed and his body dumped in Colombo’s Beira Lake. His ghost is now narrating the story and trying to find out his killer/s. The premise is happening in the very nebulous In Between, wherein ghosts are looming large over Colombo’s skyline and constantly trying to interact or distract the living mortals Down There. If this has intrigued you already, wait till you read the brilliance with which Shehan Karunatilaka has authored this story. It is set in the extremely turbulent times of Sri Lanka’s civil war circa 1989. Maali is a war photographer who clicks unfiltered, raw and controversial photos of war victims, ruthless politicians and the civil unrest per se. Debauchery forms his middle name, as he parties with Colombo’s elite and canoodles countless young men. Now that he’s dead, he’s got “Seven Moons” to sort out his grievances. He tries desperately to reach and send signals to his people Down There, especially his best friend Jaki and his on-off boyfriend DD. Other ghosts inadvertently and reluctantly help him with this pursuit. As Maali finds out his killer, whilst protecting the war photographs that could expose the dirty politics of the country, he also tries to make amends with all his strained relationships, albeit, its now in the afterlife.
This roller coaster of a story gains momentum from the start and constantly shifts between the past and present; real and otherworldly. Shehan doesn’t shy away from presenting the gory details of the politics behind the war using satire and dark humour; at the same time also blasphemously portraying the privileged ignorance of other countries and international organisations in mindlessly sustaining the war. The mastery of his writing is evident in the way he has fleshed out Maali’s character who you want to sympathise with just because he’s dead but are also put off by his arrogance, audacity and impetuous attitude. The nuanced portrayal of the various messy relationships between the characters and their interplays in the backdrop of a war and an afterlife is ingenious to say the least. Shehan has been able to translate the palpable frustration of Maali in us as his ghost looks arounds furtively and helplessly for answers. Also, very rarely do you come across such an effortless writing which doesn’t take sides despite a raging war, countless deaths, and a humanity at loss.
~ JUST A GAY BOY. 🤩