“Celestial Bodies”: The First Arabic Novel In Translation To Win Man Booker International Prize
By Muhammed Aladdin.
Celestial Bodies, an Arabic-translated novel by Omani Writer Jokha Alharthi has won the illustrious Man Booker International Prize, last Tuesday.
“It feels like a wonderful opportunity to share my inner world with the whole world!” Alharthi said in an interview following a ceremony, honoring the winners at the Roundhouse in London.
After being longlisted with 12 other non-English novels, Alharthi’s win marks her as the only author from the Gulf and one of only six Arab authors to ever be longlisted for the prize. However, after Tuesday, the win has elevated her novel to be the first-ever Arabic piece of literature to walk home with the prize.
Celestial Bodies was first published in 2010 under the original title Sayyidat Al-Qamar, or “Lady of the Moon”. Since then, it has been translated to English by American academic Marilyn Booth and published by Sandstone Press.
Both Alharthi and Booth won a joint GBP 50,000, shared equally between the two.
“I appreciate very much that this prize recognizes not only the power of the work in the language in which it was imagined and written but also the importance of translation as creative writing and as responsibility, to readers and to the author of the original,” Booth stated in an interview.
The story behind Celestial Bronze tells the story of three sisters struggling with love and life. It goes through Omani history in details, but never directly; it is always through the lives of these youngsters and their hardships.
Historian and Judging Chair Bettany Hughes said at the ceremony that the work is “a book to win over the head and the heart in equal measure, worth lingering over.”