Jokha Alharthi, an Omani novelist, in the first of its kind has been announced the winner of 2019 ‘Man Booker Literature Prize’ for ‘Celestial Bodies’ on Tuesday. Jokha’s ‘Celestial Bodies’, is a coming of age novel written in Arabic and is set in the Omani village of al-Awafi that follows the stories of three sisters: Mayya, Asma, and Khawla.
Jokha’s work which was picked from among the finest works of translated fiction around the world won the £50,000 prize – a sum which will be split equally with her translator- Marilyn Booth.
Alharthi saw off competition from writers including former winner Olga Tokarczuk, acclaimed French author Annie Ernaux and Colombia’s Juan Gabriel Vásquez.
Chair of judges for the prize, historian Bettany Hughes said: “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.”
Alharthi, who is also the author of two previous collections of short fiction, a children's book and three novels in Arabic is also the first female Omani novelist whose works are translated into English.