Jokha Alharthi

Jokha Alharthi

Jokha Alharthi, an Omani writer and academic, has made a significant impact in the literary world with her profound and insightful works. Born in Oman, Alharthi’s educational journey took her from her homeland to the United Kingdom, where she achieved a Ph.D. in Classical Arabic Literature at the University of Edinburgh. Currently, she serves as an Associate Professor in the Arabic Language Department at Sultan Qaboos University. Notably, Alharthi is the first Arab author to win the prestigious Man Booker International Prize, a testament to her exceptional literary prowess.

Jokha Alharthi’s literary contributions include three collections of short stories: “Moments in the Life of Lubna When It’s Time to Leave,” “A Boy on the Roof,” and “In Praise of Love.” Her novels – “Manamat,” “Celestial Bodies,” “Narinja,” and “Silk Gazelle” – have garnered critical acclaim.

Additionally, she has penned several children’s stories, such as “A Nest for the Birds,” “The Cloud Wishes,” and “Foufou and the Colors.”

Her academic works demonstrate her deep engagement with literary studies. These include “Pursuing the Suns: The Method of Literary Composition in Khuridat al-Qasr,” the collection and editing of Sheikh Ahmad bin Abdullah Al-Harthi’s Diwan. And “The Body in Arabic Love Poetry: The Classical Udhri Tradition” (in English). In 2023, her book “The Body in Classical Arabic Love Poetry” was translated into Arabic by Zuwaina Al Tawiah.

Jokha Alharthi’s works achieved global recognition, with her novel “Celestial Bodies” being translated into 24 languages, including French, German, Russian, Chinese, Swedish, Turkish, Azeri, Portuguese, Greek, Korean, and Indonesian. Notably, translations of “Celestial Bodies” and “Narinja” have been published in Malayalam (India), and the novel has seen translations in Russian, Croatian, Portuguese (including a Brazilian version), Bulgarian, Greek, Persian (with ten different translations and editions in Iran), French, Catalan, Hungarian, Sinhalese, Turkish, Swedish, and Italian. The Russian and Turkish versions have had two editions each.

Furthermore, in May 2022, the English translation of “Narinja,” titled “Bitter Orange Tree,” simultaneously published in the UK and the US. Published in New York by Catapult and in London by Simon & Schuster, the novel received critical acclaim and recommendations in cultural magazines and literary websites. It featured by the New York Times, Washington Post, The New Yorker, Star Tribune, The Guardian, Asia Reviews, Frontline, and highlighted by Herald Scotland and Breaking News Ireland.

Room Magazine and Publishers Weekly praised the novel, with the latter describing it as “a tale filled with unforgettable imagery symbolizing thwarted freedom.” Book Riot and Electric Literature recommended “Bitter Orange Tree” as a must-read for 2022, and Library Journal highlighted its upcoming American release.

Additionally, Katherine Bulger provided an in-depth review in Hadara Magazine, praising Alharthi’s depiction of Omani society, family dynamics, and character portrayals. The Rumpus, The National, Electric Literature, and Ms. Magazine also recognized the novel’s allure. The British Booksellers Association, representing 92 independent bookstores, selected “Bitter Orange Tree” as their June 2022 Book of the Month.

Apart from her novels, Alharthi’s short stories translated into Serbian, Korean, Italian, English, German, Spanish, Malayalam. She published her novels and books in specialized literary magazines and Banipal magazine.

In 2011, she participated in the International Prize for Arabic Fiction IPAF Nadwa, a writers’ workshop, and supervised the workshop in 2017.

Also, Alharthi’s win of the 2019 Man Booker International Prize for “Celestial Bodies,” translated by American academic Marilyn Booth, was a historic moment, marking her as the first Arab author to receive this honor. The book became a bestseller in the US, Australia, India, and Canada.

Finally, Alharthi described that book as a glimpse into the rich life of an Omani family, especially the three sisters experiencing societal transformation.

Achievements:

Her achievements include the Sultan Qaboos Award for Culture, Arts, and Literature for “Narinja” in 2016, a nomination for “Celestial Bodies” for the Zayed Book Award in 2011, and the Sharjah Award for Creative Arabic Fiction for “Moments in the Life of Lubna When It’s Time to Leave” in 2001.

In November 2021, Alharthi won the Paris Arab Literature Prize, and the French version of “Celestial Bodies” is set for a popular edition release in 2023. “Celestial Bodies” competed with seven other novels in French and translated works, with the award ceremony held in Paris on November 30, 2021.

In February 2022, “Celestial Bodies” was longlisted for the Yasnaya Polyana Foreign Literature Award in its 20th edition in Moscow. Translated into Russian by Viktoriya Zaritovskaya, the novel stood among 34 books from 19 countries, marking the first time an Omani author’s work was recognized in this prestigious Russian literary observatory.

Books Written by Jokha Alharthi