A historic first

The Man Booker International Prize is a literary award, which recognises the writer’s body of work rather than any one title. This year’s shortlist for the prize has been announced and it includes a writer from the Gulf.

Omani author, Jokha Alharthi, just made history by becoming the first author from the GCC to be in the running for the prestigious award. The announcement was made on Twitter, through a tweet from the Man Booker Prize account. They tweeted: “Congratulations Jokha Alharthi and translator Marilyn Booth, on making the longlist with Celestial Bodies.”


The 41-year-old Khaleeji author and her translator have been nominated for her novel Celestial Bodies (Sayyidat el-Qamar). It tells the coming-of-age story of three sisters in the Omani village of Al-Awafi. This is not Jokha’s first literary work, her other published pieces include: children’s books, poetry, short stories and academic articles, which have been translated to several languages including English, German, Korean, Serbian and Italian.

In 2016, the author won the Sultan Qaboos Award for Culture, Art and Literature for her novel Naranja. Not only that, but she is also an associate professor in the Arabic department at Sultan Qaboos University.

In regards to being the first Omani nominee, Jokha said: “I hope this helps international readers discover that Oman has an active and talented writing community who live and work for their art. They 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. Omanis, through their writing, invite others to look at Oman with an open mind and heart. No matter where you are, love, loss, friendship, pain and hope are the same feelings and humanity still has a lot of work to do to believe in this truth.”

The other nominees include: Annie Ernaux, Olga Tokarczuk, Marion Poschmann, Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Alia Trabucco Zerán. This year, five out of the six authors up for the award are women, while all translators are female. Moreover, the five languages represented in the 2019 edition of the prize are Arabic, French, Spanish, German and Polish. Prior to the ceremony, Jokha will attend several events in the UK, including book signings, Q&A sessions, discussion panels, and readings of Celestial Bodies in both English and Arabic.

The winner for the literary award will be announced May 21 in London. The winning author and translator will win prize money of £50,000 (AED 240,000), which will be split between the two.

Best of Luck, Jokha!

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