The first Arabic author to win the Man Booker International prize is Jokha Alharthi for her novel “Celestial Bodies” that reveals her Omani homeland’s post-colonial transformation. After the ceremony at the Roundhouse in London Alharthi, told that she is thrilled as a window has been opened to the rich Arabic culture. The jury said that the novel was elegantly structured and taut as it tells of Oman’s coming-of-age through the prism of one family’s losses and loves.
Jokha Alharthi studied classical Arabic poetry at Edinburgh University and now she teaches at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat. Earlier she has even authored two previous collections of short fiction, a children’s book and three novels in Arabic. The prestigious prize amount 50,000-pound (over 44 lakh rupees), is divided equally between the author and the translator. U.S. academic Marilyn Booth, who teaches Arabic literature at Oxford University, was Alharthi’s translator.
The novel is set in the village of al-Awafi in Oman where three sisters witness Oman’s evolution from a traditional, slave-owning society. The three sisters are Mayya, who marries Abdallah after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla, who is waiting for her beloved who has emigrated to Canada.