In a big win for the region, Omani novelist Jokha Alharthi won the Man Booker International Prize for her novel Celestial Bodies. At a ceremony at the Roundhouse in London, her novel which was translated from Arabic to English won both Alharthi and the translator Marilyn Booth GBP50,000.
We’re delighted to announce our #MBI2019 winner is Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi, translated by Marilyn Booth and published by Sandstone Press. Read more here: https://t.co/rWHBRXwDOy pic.twitter.com/SfJr2Yg98u
— Man Booker Prize (@ManBookerPrize) May 21, 2019
The Man Booker International Prize rewards the finest translated fiction works from all over the world. Not only is Alharthi the first author from the Arabian Gulf to win the prestigious award, but she is also the only Omani author to have her novel translated from Arabic to English. The coming-of-age plot of the novel follows the story of three sisters, Mayya, Asma and Khawla against the backdrop of the Omani village of al-Awafi.
Award-winning historian and chair of the judge’s panel Bettany Hughes told The Guardian, “Through the different tentacles of people’s lives and loves and losses we come to learn about this society – all its degrees, from the very poorest of the slave families working there to those making money through the advent of a new wealth in Oman and Muscat. It starts in a room and ends in a world.
“We felt we were getting access to ideas and thoughts and experiences you aren’t normally given in English. It avoids every stereotype you might expect in its analysis of gender and race and social distinction and slavery. There are surprises throughout. We fell in love with it.”
Other contenders included Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk, Annie Ernaux from France and Colombia’s Juan Gabriel Vásquez.