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Celestial Bodies

(10 customer reviews)

$16.95

by Jokha Alharthi

Synopsis

The first Arabic book to win the Man Booker International Prize, and the first female Omani writer to be translated into English

Previous winners of the Man Booker International Prize include Flights by Olga Tokarczuk and The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Celestial Bodies invites readers into a world very rarely depicted for English language readers, Oman, both in its modern-day moment and in its fraught historical journey into a 21st century nation located on the most important oil transport waterway in the world.

The novel also offers a non-Western demonstration a feminist perspective and non-Western critique of patriarchy as well as a non-Western exploration of freedom and self-determination

The moving, intergenerational, and interconnected narratives will appeal to readers of literary family sagas, literature in translation, Arabic voices, and more

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About this book

250 Pages
5 - 6 Hours to read
68k Total words

Description

The first Arabic book to win the Man Booker International Prize, and the first female Omani writer to be translated into English

Previous winners of the Man Booker International Prize include Flights by Olga Tokarczuk and The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Celestial Bodies invites readers into a world very rarely depicted for English language readers, Oman, both in its modern-day moment and in its fraught historical journey into a 21st century nation located on the most important oil transport waterway in the world.

The novel also offers a non-Western demonstration a feminist perspective and non-Western critique of patriarchy as well as a non-Western exploration of freedom and self-determination

The moving, intergenerational, and interconnected narratives will appeal to readers of literary family sagas, literature in translation, Arabic voices, and more

Additional information

FORMAT

Paperback

10 reviews for Celestial Bodies

  1. Diana Acconcia

    This book takes us to an unusual setting: a village in Oman on the margins of the capital Muscat. It tells the story of a family and a number of other characters around it, from after the second world war to more or less the 2000s. The numerous characters are powerfully sketched and the story of the transition from a world that feels ancient to modernity is compelling. However, the language full of images and religious formulas, the frequent dreams and hallucinations of the character that tells half of the story and most of all the sheer number of characters that are mentioned through the chapter (often very passingly, and only many chapters after their story is told so the reference becomes clear) made this book a bit of an ordeal for me. The book ends when it has more or less told the story of all characters, but there is no real ending, although this is normal these days, and I failed to grasp how some of the characters relate to the main story. I would have been most grateful to have a presentation of the characters or a family tree to look up at the beginning of the book, to help the novices of Arab literature to navigate the story.

  2. Danielle Jaussaud

    Celestial Bodies can be seen as a study in narrative techniques. The characters each have their own chapter(s) and each chapter is like a filter: the story is revealed through a particular character’s perception, often through inner dialogues. I found it interesting that much of the background story is threaded through a happy yet tragic male character, Abdallah, who has the most chapters to his name. He is the only character who speaks to the reader in the first person, and we are in his head, which is full of his past, of his traumatic youth under a tyrannical father, of the village’s history. Most of the other chapters have a prescient narrator, but not all of them. It’s as if the author was experimenting with different narrative styles. The whole story, how it all begins and how it all ends, reveals itself in stages in no chronological order. There are a large number of characters, and through them we perceive life in this remote village, in this unfamiliar culture, through many different angles. Yet the pieces all come together in the end. I’ll add to this that some parts are emotionally grabbing, and some are quite poetic. And the spiritual beliefs of these people are there, underlying, bringing an allegorical aspect to the story. Most certainly in the ending, which puzzled me. Yet after thinking about it for a while, I decided it was the perfect ending for this mostly enigmatic life study in a remote village in Oman where the past and the modern happily compete and mix.

  3. Semaj

    I bought this novel after it won the Man-Booker International Prize. I do not see why it won any prize at all. It is a collection of sketches about members of a family and their associated servants/slaves, suitors and friends in village in Qatar. No central character emerges. There is no person in the tale who the reader can attach to. You do learn something about the rapidly changing culture of an Arab state, but by the end of the book, time has passed (in fact, the same time has passed several times,) and you are left roughly where you began.

  4. algo41

    Life in Oman as lived by upper middle class and village people during decades of change. Alternates between characters, with recollections important and allusions to events eventually explained. The novel grew on me, but characterization and imagery are not strong. I did not experience the confusion some other reviewers did. The spiritual is important as well as the worldly. Women do not mix freely with men, and sometimes are controlled by them, but for the most part are treated surprisingly well and mix freely with their counterparts. The “millennials” in the guise of the granddaughter approach the level of Western freedoms. The initial chapter, focused on Mayva, is misleading – while an introvert, she had an active childhood, and proves more worldly than one might expect. The granddaughter, having suffered from a bad relationship, remarks: “What people called ‘an experience’ was in reality a chronic disease, surely – not one you can die from, but not one that is ever cured. Not one you ever really manage; you’re never free of it, …. .” Unfortunately, this passage is very atypical of the simple prose in the novel.

  5. eo

    This book was extremely difficult to follow. The thing that annoyed me the most with this book is that it does not use quotation marks! (I don’t know if this is due to bad translation or if it is also the case in its original language). It is very hard to follow which sentence is something a character says to another, and which is not. Add the extremely disorganized and convoluted storytelling, and feeling of frustration ends up outweighing the enjoyment one gets from the story being told.

  6. Brenda Herzberg

    Confusing because of its large cast of characters, this book tells the stories of the households of two patriarchs, their wives, children and grandchildren, servants and slaves so well that it is worth the effort of checking the helpful chart of family relationships frequently.The author’s craft sets Abdalla as the thread. Through the sections of his narrative we learn about a traditional Muslim society hurtling into modernity and almost incidentally some of the history of Oman.The stories intertwine. The revelations are often surprising. The complexity rewards those prepared to read with patience.

  7. Elizabeth coleman

    Sophisticated structure. Sparkling prose.

  8. WINTHROP SMITH

    Perhaps it’s the length of the book? Perhaps it’s how the storylines go both forward and backwards? Perhaps it’s the fork in the road with three daughters? It was, at first, the best of times, but relentlessly over the time spent reading became tedious. A look at a world. A necessary window into a world with few options. But beaten to death, even bread won’t rise.

  9. Susan Parks

    This is the first Man Booker award winner I did not care for. Disjointed, often confusing, disappointing characters and a very peculiar ending that I did not understand, perhaps it was the translation, but, In my opinion, this book isn’t worth reading unless you just want to know something about life in Oman and you want to be left with endless questions.

  10. Annette K.

    Exquisitely written and I was inspired by the poetry and proverbs as well as the cultural prospective…. a delightful read.

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