MUSCAT:Omani writer Jokha Al Harthi who won the Man Booker International Prize said a window has been opened to Arabic literature after her book Celestial Bodieswon the prestigious award on Wednesday.
Speaking exclusively to The Arabian Stories, Al Harthi said the award is a promise of greater things to come. “I feel over the moon right now!” she said. “This is absolutely gratifying and I have no words to describe my happiness,” she added.
“I am absolutely thrilled. It is a great honour and I hope it will open a window to Arabic literature and Omani literature in particular. I feel incredibly proud,” she said.
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Al Harthi is the first Arabic-language writer to get the prize and the first female writer from Oman to be translated into English. She will split the £50,000 (US$64,000) purse with her UK-based translator, Marilyn Booth.
It is a great honour and I hope it will open a window to Arabic literature and Omani literature in particular.Jokha Al Harthi
Historian Bettany Hughes, who led the judging panel, said the “lyrical” winning novel was “a book to win over the head and the heart in equal measure”.
Celestial Bodies beat five other finalists from Europe and South America, including last year’s winner, Olga Tokarczuk of Poland.
Al Harthi said her victory meant “a window has been opened to Arabic literature”.
“I am absolutely thrilled that Celestial Bodies has won the Man Booker International Prize. It is a great honour and I hope it will open a window to Arabic literature and Omani literature in particular. I feel incredibly proud,” she added.
She studied classical Arabic poetry at Edinburgh University and teaches at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat.
Marilyn Booth who translated the book said: ‘This is such an exciting award for the literature of the gulf. I hope it gets publishers and readers more interested in the rich literature of the region.”
Sandstone’s Managing Director, Robert Davidson, who published Celestial Bodies said: ‘All of us at Sandstone Press are delighted and proud to be the publisher of this fine novel, Celestial Bodies, by Jokha Al Harthi, which has been beautifully translated by Marilyn Booth. The Man Booker International Prize of 2019 is not only a first for Oman but also a milestone achievement for this company.
“More importantly, the people of Oman, and especially the women of Oman and the wider region, have a new star to follow in the shape of a young author who is only at the beginning of what I believe will be a lifetime of achievement. We all have much to celebrate,” he added.