The Omani novelist Jokha Alharthi, the author of Celestial Bodies has been named the winner of Man Booker International Prize, 2019. The Man Booker International Prize which celebrates the finest works of translated fiction declared its winners on 21st May 2019 at the Roundhouse in London. Celestial Bodies, originally written in Arabic is the first Arabic novel to win the Prize. Jokha Alharthi will share £50,000, with her translator, American academic Marilyn Booth.
Celestial Bodies narrates the story of a country that is seldom seen in the literary maps. The book’s key themes, though complex, is built around the pressures on three generations of an Omani family as a result of a social change. It follows the lives of three sisters who takes us through the lives in a less known community in the Arab world. The novel unravels the dark complexities of slavery which was made illegal in Oman in 1970.
Trimmed down from a list of 108 books in twenty- five languages the shortlist saw Arabic, French, Spanish, German and Polish translations. The female dominance that the prize saw this year was a result of “a very happy byproduct of ungendered discussions” said Betty Hughes, historian and the Chair of the panel of judges.
The winner of the Man Booker Prize receives £50,000, while each of the shortlisted authors is awarded £2,500. The panel of judges was chaired by Bettany Hughes, an award-winning historian, author, and broadcaster, and the other members included the writer, translator, and chair of English PEN, Maureen Freely; philosopher Professor Angie Hobbs; novelist and satirist Elnathan John and the Indian essayist and novelist Pankaj Mishra.