Shehan Karunatilaka snaffles a bag of ‘wickets’

Courtesy of The Island and

NEW DELHI, January 22: Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka has won the US$ 50,000 (LKR 5.68 million) DSC prize for South Asian Literature for Chinaman at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF). The prize and a unique trophy were presented to the 36-six-year-old Singapore-based Sri Lankan by Bhutan’s Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk in Jaipur on Saturday night.  The DSC Prize for South Asian Literature celebrates the richness and diversity of South Asian writing. It was instituted last year by DS Constructions Ltd, an Indian infrastructure and construction company.It is a literary prize, awarded annually to writers of any ethnicity or nationality writing about South Asia themes such as culture, politics, history or people for an original full-length novel, written in English, or translated into English.

Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew” is the story of a retired Sri Lankan sports journalist’s hunt for a long-forgotten, and a fictional, Sri Lankan cricket player, Pradeep Mathew.

A jury, chaired by Ira Pande along with renowned literary figures Dr Alastair Niven, Dr. Fakrul Alam, Faiza S Khan, and Marie Brenner, chose the book from a short-list of six extraordinary books that included: UR Ananthamurthy: Bharathipura, Chandrakanta: A Street in Srinagar, Usha KR: Monkey-man, Tabish Khair: The Thing About Thugs, and Kavery Nambisan: The Story that Must Not Be Told. Ira Pande, chairperson of the jury said, “The winner was chosen last night unanimously by the jury, it just took us half an hour to decide who deserves this prize.”

In January 2011, the inaugural DSC Prize was won by Pakistani author HM Naqvi for his debut novel Home Boy.

Karunatilaka works for an advertising firm in Singapore. Educated at Saint Thomas Preparatory School, Kollupitiya, and Saint Thomas College, Mount Lavinia, he obtained a BA in English literature from New Zealand. Karunatilaka says he used cricket as a device to write about Sri Lankan society. “Chinaman” was first published in Sri Lanka, where it won the 2009 Gratiaen Prize. It is a first person narrative of a manic alcoholic retired sports journalist, WG Karunasena. It skillfully uses cricket and the notion of fair play to look at Sri Lanka in “a fresh and exciting way.”

His debut novel “The Painter” was short-listed for the Gratiaen in 2000, but was never published. “Chinaman” began as short stories and cricket anecdotes that slowly took the shape of a longer work. He wrote it over an year and a half between 5am and 8am.



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