“I am thrilled that a window has been opened to the rich Arabic culture,” Alharthi, 40, told reporters right after the ceremony at the Roundhouse in London.
Alharthi is the author of two earlier collections of quick fiction, a children’s book and 3 novels in Arabic.
She studied classical Arabic poetry at Edinburgh University and teaches at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat.
“Oman inspired me but I think international readers can relate to the human values in the book — freedom and love,” she stated.
The prestigious 50,000-pound (57,000 euro, $64,000) prize, which celebrates translated fiction from about the planet, is divided equally among the author and the translator.
Alharthi’s translator was US academic Marilyn Booth, who teaches Arabic literature at Oxford University.
The judges stated Celestial Bodies was “a richly imagined, engaging and poetic insight into a society in transition and into lives previously obscured”.
It is set in the village of al-Awafi in Oman exactly where we encounter 3 sisters: Mayya, who marries Abdallah right after a heartbreak Asma, who marries from a sense of duty and Khawla, who is waiting for her beloved who has emigrated to Canada.
The 3 sisters witness Oman’s evolution from a standard, slave-owning society.
“It touches the subject of slavery. I think literature is the best platform to have this dialogue,” Alharthi stated.
The jury stated: “Elegantly structured and taut, it tells of Oman’s coming-of-age through the prism of one family’s losses and loves”.
The Guardian stated it provides “glimpses into a culture relatively little known in the west” and The National stated it signalled “the arrival of a major literary talent”, calling the book “a densely woven, deeply imagined tour de force”.
Jury chair Bettany Hughes stated the novel showed “delicate artistry and disturbing aspects of our shared history”.
“The style is a metaphor for the subject, subtly resisting cliches of race, slavery and gender,” she stated.
Alharthi was up against 5 other shortlisted authors: France’s Annie Ernaux, Germany’s Marion Poschmann, Poland’s Olga Tokarczuk, Colombia’s Juan Gabriel Vasquez and Chile’s Alia Trabucco Zeran.
Information Source: Muscat Daily