Books

Jokha Alharthi & translator Marilyn Booth win £50K Man Booker International Prize for Celestial Bodies

The Man Booker International Prize annually honours a fictional work in translation. Omani writer Jokha Alharthi is the first writer from the Arabian Gulf to win the award, which is shared with her American translator Marilyn Booth.

The Man Booker International Prize annually honours a fictional work in translation.

Jokha Alharthi (left), author, and Marilyn Booth, translator, attend the winners' photocall for the 2019 Man Booker International Prize at The Roundhouse on May 21, 2019 in London, England. Jokha Alharthi's book Celestial Bodies won the 2019 Man Booker International Prize. (Peter Summers/Getty Images)

Omani writer Jokha Alharthi is the first writer from the Arabian Gulf to receive the Man Booker International Prize. She won the £50,000 ($87,180 Cdn) award alongside American translator Marilyn Booth for the novel Celestial Bodies. 

"This is a great honour," said Alharthi, thanking Booth, as well as her publisher, family and friends, in her acceptance speech.

The Man Booker International Prize annually honours a fictional work in translation from anywhere in the world. The grand prize is shared equally between Alharthi and Booth.

Celestial Bodies is a coming-of-age story about the country Oman, told through the perspective of three sisters as they witness waves of great change.

"'A book to win over the head and the heart in equal measure, worth lingering over," said Bettany Hughes, who chaired the judging panel of Pankaj Mishra, Angie Hobbs, Maureen Freely and Elnathan John.

"Interweaving voices and timelines are beautifully served by the pacing of the novel. Its delicate artistry draws us into a richly imagined community — opening out to tackle profound questions of time and mortality and disturbing aspects of our shared history."

Celestial Bodies received the Best Omani Novel Award in 2010. Alharthi — the first female Omani author to be published in English — has also published two other novels, two short story collections and a children's book.

The Man Booker International Prize shortlist included the work of two Canadian translators, Anne McLean and Alison L. Strayer, who were shortlisted for The Shape of Ruins by Colombian novelist Juan Gabriel Vásquez and The Years by French writer Annie Ernaux, respectively. 

Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk and translator Antonia Lloyd-Jones were shortlisted for Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. Tokarczuk won the prize last year for her novel Flights, which was translated by Jennifer Croft.

The Remainder by Chilean writer Alia Trabucco Zerán and translator Sophie Hughes and The Pine Islands by German author Marion Poschmann and translator Jen Calleja were also on the shortlist.

 

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