In First, Omani Author Brings Man Booker International Literary Prize to Arabian Gulf

Jokha Alharthi, the winner, is the first female Omani novelist to be translated into English

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Arabic author Jokha Alharthi speaks to the media after winning the Man Booker International Prize for the book 'Celestial Bodies' in London on May 21, 2019.
Arabic author Jokha Alharthi speaks to the media after winning the Man Booker International Prize for the book 'Celestial Bodies' in London on May 21, 2019. Credit: AFP
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Jokha Alharthi, the first female Omani novelist to be translated into English, on Tuesday won the 2019 Man Booker International Prize for the novel "Celestial Bodies."

The novel, translated from Arabic by Marilyn Booth, deals with family connections and history in the coming-of-age account of three Omani sisters.

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"Celestial Bodies" beat five other shortlisted books to take the prize, which includes an award of 50,000 pounds (63,500 dollars) which has been divided equally between author and translator.

This is the first time an author from the Arabian Gulf has won the coveted prize.

"A book to win over the head and the heart in equal measure, worth lingering over," Bettany Hughes, chair of the five-judge panel said at a ceremony at the Roundhouse in London. "Celestial Bodies evokes the forces that constrain us and those that set us free."

Hughes added that the book's translation is "precise and lyrical, weaving in the cadences of both poetry and everyday speech."

Alharthi will be the last author to win the Man Booker International Prize, which began in 2005 as a biennial award for a foreign-language author whose works are widely available in English.

The award, which from 2016 changed to an annual prize for a single translated book, will be known from June 1 as the International Booker Prize as the Man Group's sponsorship of the award ends this year.

The original prize, which celebrates works written in English, will once again be known as the Booker Prize.

The last winner of the Man Booker Prize will be announced on October 14.

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