Jokha Alharthi has become the first Arabic author to win the Man Booker International prize for her novel 'Celestial Bodies' which reveals her Omani homeland's post-colonial transformation.
"I am thrilled that a window has been opened to the rich Arabic culture," Alharthi, 40, told reporters after the ceremony at the Roundhouse in London on Tuesday.
Translated by Professor Marilyn Booth of the Oriental Institute and Magdalen College, Oxford University, who received a translation grant from the Anglo Omani Society. The book is translated from the original Omani novel 'Sayyidat al-Qamar'.
Alharthi shares the prize (£50,000) equally with her translator, American academic Marilyn Booth. 'Celestial Bodies' is set in the village of al-Awafi in Oman, where we encounter three sisters: Mayya, who marries Abdallah after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla who rejects all offers while waiting for her beloved, who has emigrated to Canada. These three women and their families witness Oman evolve from a traditional, slave-owning society slowly redefining itself after the colonial era, to the crossroads of its complex present. Elegantly structured and taut, Celestial Bodies is a coiled spring of a novel, telling of Oman's coming-of-age through the prism of one family's losses and loves
Alharthi is the author of two previous collections of short fiction, a children's book and three novels in Arabic. She studied classical Arabic poetry at Edinburgh University and teaches at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat. "Oman inspired me but I think international readers can relate to the human values in the book — freedom and love," she said