Celestial Bodies, written by Jokha Alharthi and translated by Marilyn Booth, is Hay Festival Book of the Month for October, continuing the Festival's campaign to celebrate and ignite conversation around current and backlist books that have contemporary resonance.
Winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2019 and the 2010 Best Omani Novel Award, Celestial Bodies tells Oman’s coming-of-age through the prism of one family’s losses and loves.
The novel is set in the village of al-Awafi in Oman, where we encounter three sisters: 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 slowly redefining itself after the colonial era, to the crossroads of its complex present.
"Through the different tentacles of people’s lives and loves and losses we come to learn about this society – all its degrees, from the very poorest of the slave families working there to those making money through the advent of a new wealth in Oman and Muscat. It starts in a room and ends in a world," said Man Booker International Prize 2019 judge Bettany Hughes.
Jokha Alharthi is the first Omani woman to have a novel translated into English, and Celestial Bodies is the first book translated from Arabic to win the Man Booker International Prize. Alharthi is the author of two previous collections of short fiction, a children’s book, and three novels in Arabic. Fluent in English, she completed a PhD in Classical Arabic Poetry in Edinburgh, and teaches at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat. She has been shortlisted for the Sahikh Zayed Award for Young Writers and her short stories have been published in English, German, Italian, Korean, and Serbian.
Hay Festival’s Book of the Month is selected by the festival team in Hay-on-Wye, based on public recommendations, and aims to revisit and re-celebrate great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry that reach through time to touch the present.
Titles are sold in the UK through the festival’s online shop, as well as being available in all good libraries and bookshops, with a digital festival of promotion online, including curated streams on the festival’s Hay Player archive.
Find out more about Hay Festival’s Book of the Month here or explore #HayBookOfTheMonth on social.