Omani Author Jokha Alharthi Is First Arabic Winner Of Man Booker Prize

Omani novelist Jokha Alharthi has become the first Arabic author to win the coveted Man Booker International Prize for literature.

Her award-winning novel, ‘Celestial Bodies,’ tells of family connections and history in the coming-of-age account of three Omani sisters.

Alharti and Marilyn Booth, who translated the novel from Arabic to English, will equally share the 50,000 pounds or $63,396 prize money.

Celestial Bodies, which reveals Oman’s post-colonial transformation, was published by Sandstone Press.

The winner was announced by Bettany Hughes, the chairperson of the judging committee, at a ceremony at the Roundhouse in London.

Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Alharthi said she is thrilled that a window has been opened to the rich Arabic culture. The 40-year old author teaches at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat.

Alharthi is the first female Omani novelist to be translated into English. The author of two other novels, two collections of short fiction and a children’s book, her work has been published in English, German, Italian, Korean, and Serbian. She has been shortlisted for the Sahikh Zayed Award for Young Writers and won the Best Omani Novel Award for Celestial Bodies.

Marilyn Booth is an American academic and translator who has translated many works of fiction from Arabic. A fellow at Magdalen College, Oxford, she holds the Khalid bin Abdullah Al Saud Chair for the Study of the Contemporary Arab World at the Oriental Institute.

The jury described Celestial Bodies as a “book to win over the head and the heart in equal measure, worth lingering over.”

The Man Booker International Prize is awarded each year for the best original novel translated into English and published in the UK.

Instituted in 1969, the Man Booker Prize is recognized as the leading award for quality literary fiction.

The 2019 prize marks the last one sponsored by Man Group. The charitable foundation Crankstart will be the new sponsor of the Booker Prize.

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