The Man Booker International Prize

Man Booker International Prize 2019 Winner:
Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi


Celestial Bodies - Winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2019

 

We are delighted to confirm Celestial Bodies, written by Jokha Alharthi and translated by Marilyn Booth, as the winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2019. Both author and translator share the award. This year’s shortlist was one of the most geographically wide-ranging in the prize’s history, roaming from the backstreets of gangland Colombia to a wintry Polish hamlet and the cross-generational Oman of the winning entry.

 

‘A book to win over the head and the heart in equal measure, worth lingering over. Interweaving voices and timelines are beautifully served by the pacing of the novel. Its delicate artistry draws us into a richly imagined community - opening out to tackle profound questions of time and mortality and disturbing aspects of our shared history.’

Bettany Hughes, Chair of Judges

 

Heralding a powerful new voice from a hitherto underexposed culture, Celestial Bodies is a worthy winner of this highly respected award. The first Omani novel ever to be translated into English, Celestial Bodies spans time and space across a country undergoing massive societal change. Through the eyes of three generations of Omani women, Alharthi weaves a lyrical meditation on slavery and the evolving nature of family.

 

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Mayya, Asma and Khawla; three sisters, each a villager of al-Awafi in Oman and each harbouring very different hopes and commitments. In a vivid tale of passion, conflict, love and loss, Jokha Alharthi takes us through three generations of Omani culture to describe a society experiencing extraordinary change. From 19th century slavery to its 20th century abolition and beyond, Celestial Bodies is an extraordinary cultural kaleidoscope, translated with great nuance by Marilyn Booth.

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The Shortlist

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Critically compared in its narrative gift to Proust, The Years takes the life of author Annie Ernaux and, from 1940 to 2006, elegantly and elusively reframes it as a kind of meta-fiction, brilliantly creating its own internal distances from Ernaux as its subject. The novel’s scale takes in the breadth of years, breathing in the chaos of war, social and intellectual revolution, the steady seep of technology and our own inexorable, unstoppable change and entropy. The result is complete and dazzling, assuredly translated by Alison L. Strayer.

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Mayya, Asma and Khawla; three sisters, each a villager of al-Awafi in Oman and each harbouring very different hopes and commitments. In a vivid tale of passion, conflict, love and loss, Jokha Alharthi takes us through three generations of Omani culture to describe a society experiencing extraordinary change. From 19th century slavery to its 20th century abolition and beyond, Celestial Bodies is an extraordinary cultural kaleidoscope, translated with great nuance by Marilyn Booth.

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Gilbert Silvester is a man in search of transformation. A film lecturer relentlessly – and fruitlessly – gripped by outlandish theory, a nightmare sends him tumbling from the sanctuary of family life to an obsessive quest that will take him across Japan. Marion Poschmann’s satire of identity and meaning throws into sharp relief the divide between our desire to serve ourselves and our responsibility to others, Silvester abandoning everything on an entirely selfish quest that only serves to highlight his deep and failed need for connection.

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Wrapped in the trappings of a rather brilliant crime noir, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead marks Olga Tokarczuk’s return to the Man Booker International field, following her victory in 2018 with Flights. Deep in the rural, midwinter midst of Poland, an isolated village is playing host to the murder of men; enter former engineer and teacher Janina Duszejko, a William Blake-obsessed retiree who finds herself in an almost existential hunt for the killer. Brilliant, unexpected and questioning, the novel parts from the conventions of the genre to deliver a story of acute and unsettling resonance, questioning our absolute humanity.

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Conspiracy, deceit and death: in The Shape of the Ruins, Juan Gabriel Vásquez plays a virtuosic hand in pulling together the threads of history, where two assassinations – committed thirty years apart – form the hub to decades of murder and corruption in Colombia. Based on real life event, Vásquez is fearless in identifying collusion between church and state, weaving in a character seemingly wearing his own identity, driven by the obsessive need to understand and reveal the truth behind this case. The novel is translated by Anne McLean, whose translation of Juan Gabriel Vásquez's The Sound of Things Falling was awarded the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

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Picking up the fictional, humanitarian baton of Isabel Allende and Pedro Lemebel, Chilean Alia Trabucco Zerán considers the brutal legacy of dictator Augusto Pinochet. In what develops into a macabre road-trip, two girls - Paloma and Iquela – find themselves bound by hearse across Chile, pursuing the body of Paloma’s deceased, activist mother who has been lost in transit. Joined by Filipe, Iquela’s adopted brother, their journey becomes a transport into both their own past and the haunted soul of their nation.

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Longlist

Celestial Bodies
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Love in the New Millennium
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The Years
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Paperback
At Dusk
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Jokes for the Gunmen
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Four Soldiers
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The Pine Islands
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Mouthful of Birds
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The Faculty of Dreams
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The Shape of the Ruins
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The Death of Murat Idrissi
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The Remainder
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Previous Winners

Flights
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A Horse Walks into a Bar
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The Vegetarian
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A Girl in Exile
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Three Elegies For Kosovo
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Things Fall Apart
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Arrow of God
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£9.99
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Runaway
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Too Much Happiness
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American Pastoral
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The Plot Against America
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The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
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The End of the Story
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The Melancholy of Resistance
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Satantango
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