Translator Marilyn Booth and author Jokha Alharthi
With the aid of her translator Marilyn Booth, Jokha Alharthi, the first female Omani writer to be translated into English, also became the first Arab writer to win the prize.
Celestial Bodies is the story of three sisters from an Omani village who grapple in different ways with the themes of duty, pragmatism, and idealism that surround love and marriage. Booth, an American academic, hoped the win would stop readers seeing Arabic fiction as ‘a road map to the Arab world rather than first and foremost as art’. The novel shows how much Alharthi learnt while studying for a PhD in Arabic literature at Edinburgh University. Her prize win was a source of national pride and she received a heroine’s welcome at Muscat airport on her return home.