Omani author nominated for Booker International Prize

Jokha Alharthi is the first from the Gulf region to be shortlisted for the prestigious literary award
Omani author nominated for Booker International Prize
Jokha Alharthi is one of five women shortlisted for the prestigious literary award
By AFP
Wed 10 Apr 2019 07:53 AM

Oman novelist Jokha Alharthi was named Tuesday among five female nominees for this year's Booker International Prize for fiction.

Alharthi, the first from the Gulf region to be shortlisted for the prestigious literary award, is nominated for her novel ‘Celestial Bodies’.

Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk, who scooped last year's award, is also among the six writers in who have been shortlisted for the British-based prize which celebrates the translated English-language versions of novels from around the world.

Tokarczuk, who won the 2018 award with the translation of "Flights", is nominated this year for "Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead".

Other on the list include France's Annie Ernaux, Marion Poschmann of Germany, Juan Gabriel Vasquez from Colombia and Chile's Alia Trabucco Zeran.

The winner is to be announced in London on May 21.

The £50,000 ($65,000, 58,000 euro) prize is divided equally between the winning book's author and translator.

"Wisdom in all its forms is here," said historian and author Bettany Hughes, who chairs the judging panel.

"Unexpected and unpredictable narratives compelled us to choose this vigorous shortlist. Subversive and intellectually ambitious with welcome flashes of wit, each book nourishes creative conversation.

"We were struck by the lucidity and supple strength of all the translations."

The International Prize, which has been running since 2005, is the counterpart to the Booker Prize, which is awarded for books originally written in English.

The International Prize is open to books translated into English and published by British publishers between May 1, 2018 and April 30, 2019.

The novels

Alharthi's 'Celestial Bodies', translated from Arabic, tells of Oman's transformation through the lives of three sisters.

Set in the village of al-Awafi in Oman, where we encounter Mayya, who marries Abdallah after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla who rejects all offers while waiting for her beloved, who has emigrated to Canada.

These three women and their families witness Oman evolve from a traditional, slave-owning society which is slowly redefining itself after the colonial era, to the crossroads of its complex present.

Elegantly structured and taut, it tells of Oman’s coming-of-age through the prism of one family’s losses and loves.

"Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead" by Tokarczuk, considered the most talented Polish novelist of her generation, starts with the disappearance of an eccentric woman's dogs. When two local hunters are murdered, she is drawn into the investigation.

Ernaux's novel "The Years", originally written in French, is a narrative of France from 1941 to 2006, told through memory and impressions of the past.

"The Pine Islands" by Poschmann, who has won both of Germany's premier poetry prizes, is about a journeyman lecturer who flees his cheating wife for Japan and goes on a pilgrimage following the travel writings of a poet.

"The Shape of the Ruins" by Vasquez is a fictional account of his investigations into conspiracy theories surrounding the assassinations of Colombian politicians.

"The Remainder" by Trabucco, also translated from Spanish, tells the story of three children of ex-militants overcoming Chile's complex past.

The shortlist:

  • Jokha Alharthi (Oman): "Celestial Bodies"
  • Annie Ernaux (France): "The Years"
  • Marion Poschmann (Germany): "The Pine Islands"
  • Olga Tokarczuk (Poland): "Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead"
  • Juan Gabriel Vasquez (Colombia): "The Shape Of The Ruins"
  • Alia Trabucco Zeran (Chile): "The Remainder"

*With additional reporting

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