Jokha Alharthi, the first female Omani novelist to be translated into English, has won the Man Booker International prize, 2019 for her novel Celestial Bodies. The author will share the prize money £50,000 (approximately Rs 45 lakh) equally with her translator Marilyn Booth.
Celestial Bodies, a compelling tale of love and heartbreak, written in Arabic, is posited in the Omani village of al-Awafi and traces the lives of sisters: Mayya, Asma and Khawla.
“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,” Bettany Hughes, historian and chair of judges for the prize, was quoted as saying, according to a report in The Guardian.
“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,” Hughes added.
This year, the prize was dominated by female authors and Alharthi— the first writer to be shortlisted from the Gulf — was chosen among authors like Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk, who won the honour last year for her novel Flights, Annie Ernaux, Marion Poschmann Juan Gabriel Vasquez and Alia Trabucco Zeran.