Omani Novel Selected by NU-Q for One Book Program

February 12, 2020

A contemporary novel – Celestial Bodies – by internationally-celebrated Omani writer Jokha Alharthi is Northwestern University in Qatar’s selection for its 2020 One Book program.

Celestial Bodies is the first novel originally written in Arabic to be awarded the Man Booker International Prize. The book was translated into English by Marilyn Booth.

The NU-Q One Book program invites students, faculty, and staff to read a novel and participate in a series of related programs and activities that include book clubs, classroom discussions, and a visit and reading from the author. 

“This year’s novel sheds light on several issues that will resonate with members of our community. In her book, Alharthi explores the implications of modernization and development on a personal level – taking a global phenomenon and bringing it very close to home,” said Kathleen Hewett-Smith, professor and director of the Liberal Arts Program, and chairperson of the One Book committee.

Alharthi’s novel is a family saga that explores relationships influenced by local traditions in an Omani household. It spans several generations in the late 1900s and early 2000s – a time in Oman when the discovery of natural resources triggered drastic economic, political, and societal changes in Oman and its neighboring Gulf countries.

The New York Times described the novel as “An innovative reimagining of the family saga... there is no doubt that this is a contemporary novel, insistent and alive...Celestial Bodies is itself a treasure house: an intricately calibrated chaos of familial orbits and conjunctions, of the gravitational pull of secrets." 

Alharthi is an associate professor in the College of Arts and Social Sciences at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat. She has published two other novels, several collections of short fiction stories and poems, and a children’s book. She is also the recipient of the Sultan Qaboos Award for Culture, Arts and Literature in 2016. Alharthi earned her Ph.D. in Classical Arabic Literature from the University of Edinburgh, U.K. in 2010.

The One Book program is designed to engage the Northwestern University in Qatar community in a shared experience that promotes critical thinking and interdisciplinary learning.