Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi
WINNER OF THE 2019 MAN BOOKER INTERNATIONAL PRIZE
In the village of al-Awafi in Oman, we encounter three sisters: Mayya, who marries after a heartbreak; Asma, who aspires to a different kind of life and marriage; and Khawla, who chooses to refuse all offers and await a reunion with the man she loves, who has emigrated to Canada.
These three women and their families, their losses and loves, unspool beautifully against a backdrop of a rapidly changing Oman, a country evolving from a traditional, slave-owning society into its complex present. Through the sisters, we glimpse a society in all its degrees, from the very poorest of the local slave families to those making money through the advent of new wealth.
The first novel originally written in Arabic to ever win the Man Booker International Prize, and the first book by a female Omani author to be translated into English, Celestial Bodies marks the arrival in the United States of a major international writer.
Jokha Alharthi is the first Omani woman to have a novel translated into English, and Celestial Bodies is the first book translated from the Arabic to win the Man Booker International Prize. Alharthi is the author of three previous collections of short fiction, a children’s book, and three novels in Arabic. Fluent in English, She completed a PhD in Classical Arabic poetry in Edinburgh and teaches at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat, and received the Sultan Qaboos Award for Culture, Art and Literature for her 2016 novel Narinjah.
Marilyn Booth holds the Khalid bin Abdullah Al Saud Chair for the Study of the Contemporary Arab World, Oriental Institute and Magdalen College, Oxford University. In addition to her academic publications, she has translated many works of fiction from the Arabic, most recently The Penguin’s Song and No Road to Paradise, both by Lebanese novelist Hassan Daoud.