The Legend of Pradeep Mathew

Shehan Karunatilaka, Author
Shehan Karunatilaka. Graywolf, $14 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-1-55597-611-8
Ebook - 416 pages - 978-1-55597-046-8
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Karunatilaka’s exciting debut novel places the search for a mythical cricket bowler against the backdrop of Sri Lankan politics and a transforming society. Through narrative cul-de-sacs and asides, the main story concerns W.G. Karunasena, an alcoholic sports writer who, with the help of friends, has been given the task of producing a television series about Sri Lanka’s greatest cricketers. This gives him the long-dreamed-for chance to tell the nation about the disappeared Pradeep Mathew, a little known player but also perhaps the greatest in the nation’s history. Along the way, Karunasena struggles to find a six-fingered bowling coach who may have vital information regarding the details of the vanished Mathew, faces a Tamil Tiger warlord, and addresses the legacy of colonialism that still haunts his country. “Ideally, we Sri Lankans should have retained our friendly, child-like nature and combined it with the inventiveness of our colonisers. Instead we inherit Portuguese lethargy, Dutch hedonism, and British snobbery.” Karunatilaka comes from an advertising background, like Kurt Vonnegut, an author with whom he strikes a similar stylistic chord. They share a dry fatalistic sense of humor and punchy straightforward prose. For American readers, cricket is a maddeningly complex game; this novel does nothing to dispel confusion despite discussion on the flight and drift of the cricket ball and photographs and illustrations dealing with the mechanics of the game. Nevertheless, Karunatilaka is a dazzling and eloquent new literary voice. (May)
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