Omani author first in Gulf to be shortlisted for literary prize
An Omani author has created history for being shortlisted for one of the biggest literary fiction awards in the world - the Man Booker International Prize for 2019. Jokha Alharthi’s book Celestial Bodies , translated from the original Omani novelSayyidat al-Qamar , has been shortlisted from among 13 books that were previously longlisted for the prize.
Jokha’s achievement is extraordinary as she is the first writer from the Gulf to have been longlisted. And, getting shortlisted is unprecedented for any writer from the Gulf.
This year’s Man Booker International Prize shortlist features six books translated from five languages, hailing from five countries and three continents, but only one male writer alongside five female authors and an all-female list of translators.
The shortlist of the six books in contention, which celebrates the finest works of translated fiction from around the world, was revealed on Tuesday, in London. The £50,000 prize for the winning book, which will be announced on May 21, will be divided equally between its author and translator.
“We’re thrilled that Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi, as translated by Marilyn Booth, has been shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize for 2019,” said Sandstone Press, the publisher.
Jokha was quoted as saying in an interview by Man Group, “It feels like a wonderful opportunity to share my inner world with the whole world. I hope this helps international readers discover that Oman has an active and talented writing community which lives and work for its art. These writers take on sacrifices and struggles and find joy in writing, or in art, much the same way as anywhere else. This is something the whole world has in common.”
This year’s stories include the pilgrimage of a lecturer on beard fashions over the pine islands of Matsushima, a tale of Colombian conspiracy theories, and an environmental whodunnit with a cast of eccentric characters.
Family connections and history are also present in the coming-of-age account of three Omani sisters, the story of three children of ex-militants overcoming Chile’s complex past, and an evocative narrative of France from 1941 to 2006 which blends the personal and the collective to present memories of a generation.