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Celestial Bodies - by Jokha Alharthi (Paperback)

Celestial Bodies - by  Jokha Alharthi (Paperback) - image 1 of 1
Celestial Bodies - by  Jokha Alharthi (Paperback) - image 1 of 1
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About this item


Number of Pages: 256

Genre: Fiction + Literature Genres

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Catapult

Author: Jokha Alharthi

Language: English

Street Date: October 8, 2019
TCIN: 77124795
UPC: 9781948226943
Item Number (DPCI): 247-47-4710


Praise for Celestial Bodies

The Week, 1 of 25 Books to Read in the Second Half of the Year
Publishers Weekly, One of the Big Indie Books of the Season
Time, 1 of 15 New Books You Should Read This Month
The Washington Post, 1 of 18 Books to Read This Season
One of the Chicago Review of Books's Best Books of the Month
One of Refinery29's Favorite Books of the Month
The Millions, Most Anticipated (This Month)

"A book to win over the head and the heart in equal measure . . . 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. The style is a metaphor for the subject, subtly resisting clich�s of race, slavery and gender. The translation is precise and lyrical, weaving in the cadences of both poetry and everyday speech. Celestial Bodies evokes the forces that constrain us and those that set us free." --Bettany Hughes, chair of the 2019 Man Booker International Prize

"Celestial Bodies, the first novel originally published in Arabic to win the Man Booker International Prize, showcases Oman's rich cultural history through a multigenerational saga." --Annabel Gutterman, Time, 1 of 42 Most Anticipated Books for the Season

"[A] sweeping story of generational and societal change . . . The great strength of the novel lies in the ways this change is shown not as a steady progression from old to new but as a far more complicated series of small-scale transitions . . . A richly layered, ambitious work that teems with human struggles and contradictions, providing fascinating insight into Omani history and society." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Alharthi's ambitious, intense novel--her first to be translated into English and winner of the 2019 Man Booker International Prize--examines the radical changes in Oman over the past century from the perspectives of the members of several interconnected families. With exhilarating results, Alharthi throws the reader into the midst of a tangled family drama in which unrequited love, murder, suicide, and adultery seem the rule rather than the exception . . . The novel rewards readers willing to assemble the pieces of Alharthi's puzzle into a whole, and is all the more satisfying for the complexity of its tale." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Altharthi makes literary history as the first female Omani author to be translated into English and as author of the first novel written in Arabic to win the Man Booker International Prize. She shares that extraordinary success with translator and Oxford professor Booth . . . Althari's unique structure demands vigilant participation as it is more jigsaw puzzle than linear narrative, and the skeletal family tree proves useful . . . Pieced together, a robust village emerges, of alliances and betrayals, survival and murder, surrender and escape. Patient readers will be seductively, magnificently rewarded." --Booklist (starred review)

"Readers will come to this novel as the first written in Arabic to win the Man Booker International Prize and the first by a female Omani author to be translated into English and will leave with a sense of original storytelling, rich characterization, and transparently bright language, expertly translated. Highly recommended." --Library Journal (starred review)

"The form's remarkable adaptability is on brilliant display in Celestial Bodies (Catapult), a searching work of fiction by Jokha Alharthi, an Omani writer and academic; the English translation, by Marilyn Booth, won this year's International Booker Prize. Celestial Bodies tells the subtle and quietly anguished story of several unhappy marriages. Though not a novel about female adultery--the narrated infidelities are all male--it shares with the genre an intense preoccupation with its female characters' unhappy marital experience. The inequitable rules and expectations of a traditionally patriarchal Islamic society--the novel is largely set in an Omani village--bend this novel's focus back onto the sort of marital misery that once animated the European literary tradition. Yet one of the book's signal triumphs is that Alharthi has constructed her own novelistic form to suit her specific mimetic requirements . . . Celestial Bodies, a slender novel alive with many tales, encompasses several generations, but at its heart is the story of three sisters who are disillusioned by marriage . . . The novel moves back and forth between the generations very flexibly, often in the course of a single page or even paragraph, owing to Alharthi's deft management of time shifts. I like to imagine Alharthi, as a graduate student in Edinburgh, encountering what Muriel Spark did with flash-forwards in her great Edinburgh novel about the often unhappy lives of girls and women, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie . . . Within all the chapters, the stories float like this, lightly tethered to what the French call r�cit--the moment in which the story is being told, the narrative present. The result is a beautifully wavering, always mobile set of temporalities, the way starlight seems to flicker when we gaze at distant and nearer celestial bodies. But the procedure is more radical than Muriel Spark's, because the tether itself is moving . . . Celestial Bodies, written from within a largely poetic tradition by a woman who is a scholar of classical Arabic poetry, seems to break free of narration as it is commonly understood in Western fictional literature. The leaps and swerves seem closer to poetry or fable or song than to the novel as such . . . The form speaks eloquently. Indeed, the great pleasure of reading Celestial Bodies is witnessing a novel argue, through the achieved perfection of its form, for a kind of inquiry that only the novel can really conduct. The ability to move freely through time, the privileged access to the wounded privacies of many characters, the striking diversity of human beings across a relatively narrow canvas, the shock waves as one generation heaves, like tectonic plates, against another, the secrets and lapses and repressions, at once intimate and historical, the power, indeed, of an investigation that is always political and always intimate--here is the novel being supremely itself, proving itself up to the job by changing not its terms of employment but the shape of the task." --James Wood, The New Yorker

"Arab women, therefore, face twin obstacles: the West's own gender biases, and the reductive narrative of the Arab woman. This is why it was such a victory when the International Booker Prize jury chose an Arab novel--one written by a woman--to receive the award for the first time in the prize's history. The Omani novelist Jokha al-Harthi's breathtaking, layered, multigenerational novel Celestial Bodies, which was beautifully translated into English, follows the lives of three sisters from a small village at a time of rapid social and economic change in Oman. The tale is replete with history, poetry, and philosophy, but also slavery, broken marriages, passion, and not-so-secret lovers." --Kim Gattas, The Atlantic

"The glimpses into a culture relatively little known in the West are fascinating." --Jane Housham, The Guardian

"To say that Celestial Bodies is a multi-generational saga simplifies what Alharthi has done, which is also to tell the story of how Oman has changed over the last century, from a traditional rural patriarchal society where Islam was complemented by Zār spirit worship, and which was among the last countries in the world to abolish slavery (in 1970), to an urban, oil-rich Gulf state. And she has done so in a form that shifts from voice to voice, viewpoint to viewpoint, decade to decade, sometimes within a single paragraph or sentence." --Aida Edemariam, The Guardian

"This is not only the first novel originally written in Arabic to win the Man Booker International Prize, but it is also the first book by a female Omani author to be translated into English, and is thus a major, exciting literary event." --Emily Temple, Literary Hub, One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Year

"An impressive blend of the personal and sociopolitical." --Vol. 1 Brooklyn

"[Alharthi] had no small gift to begin with, but in this story she's honed it to a master's edge. Celestial Bodies delivers a cornucopia, the drama tasty whether it concerns a long day of overwrought celebration, scented with incense and envy, or a midnight tryst in the desert, mixing torment and ecstasy. Juggling multiple perspectives, eschewing straightforward chronology, the narrative coheres nevertheless . . . Marilyn Booth's skill as translator . . . brings off all sorts of delicate shadings, even finding English equivalents for the rhymes in Bedouin proverbs. Beyond that, feminism so multifaceted again recalls Ferrante, and more importantly asserts why such fiction matters. A novel with the sock of Celestial Bodies puts a reader face to face with the complex humanity everywhere." --John Domini, The Brooklyn Rail

"In the novel, Alharthi transports you to Oman through the eyes of one family. The narration weaves back and forth in time, and through the perspectives of multiple characters, but it never feels confusing . . . All in all: [it's] worth your time. Read if you're into: historical novels, family sagas, and 'major literary events'!" --Emily Burack, Alma

"This is a beautiful, fascinating book, which teaches us a great deal about Oman, Arab life and aspirations, and the swiftly changing relations between men and women and between the generations. It is a worthy recipient of this year's Man Booker International Prize." --Maureen O'Rourke, The Times Literary Supplement

"The novel is a beautifully achieved account of lives pulling at the edges of change. The writing is teasingly elliptical throughout and there is a kind of poetic understatement that draws the reader into the domestic settings and public tribulations of the three sisters. . . . Celestial Bodies deftly undermines recurrent stereotypes about Arab language and cultures but most importantly brings a distinctive and important new voice to world literature." --Michael Cronin, Irish Times

"A striking feat, it deserves the world's attention . . . In revealing Omani history through marginalized voices, Celestial Bodies also lays bare those global forces that enable, amongst other things, unequal conditions of value and circulation. . . . Celestial Bodies does what the best literature does: it takes us out of ourselves only to bring us to a better understanding of our world."--Sarah Jilani, Frieze

"Celestial Bodies is an exquisite literary creation that marks the arrival of a major international talent." --CBC Books

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