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Books: Sri Lankan wartime satire mixes fantasy and dark reality

Shehan Karunatilaka is year's only Asian Booker Prize finalist

"The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida" author Shehan Karunatilaka grew up in Colombo, largely insulated from the horrors of Sri Lanka's civil war. (Courtesy of Shehan Karunatilaka)

CHENNAI, India -- Is there life after death? What is it like? In Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka's novel "The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida," the protagonist Maali discovers the answers when he lands in the company of the dead: "Yes," and "Just like here but worse."

Seamlessly combining realism with fantasy, Karunatilaka takes readers on a crazy ride marked with dark humor and satire. Maali, described as a "photographer, gambler, slut," cannot fathom the cause or the nature of his death, and is worried about a set of photographs of war crimes carried out by the Sri Lankan government in the early years of the country's 1983-2009 civil war.

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