Jokha Al Harthy is the first Arab wins Booker International Prize
May 22, 2019
Omani author Jokha Alharthi has won the prestigious Man Booker International Prize for "Celestial Bodies," the story of three sisters in a desert country confronting its slave-owning past and the modern world.
Alharthi 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 pound ($A92,773) purse with translator Marilyn Booth.
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" confronts Oman's history of slavery, which was abolished in the country only in 1970.
"It's a sensitive subject and kind of a taboo," Alharthi said in onstage interview at the awards ceremony in London.
"But I think literature is the best platform to discuss sensitive issues. And slavery is not exclusive to Oman - it's part of human history."
"Celestial Bodies" beat five other finalists from Europe and South America, including last year's winner, Olga Tokarczuk of Poland.
The prize is a counterpart to the Man Booker Prize for English-language novels and is open to books in any language that have been translated into English.