Sidharth Vardhan

Jokha Al-harthi’s Celestial Bodies – a review

Celestial bodies jokha al-harthi sidharth vardhan review analysis
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Published: 2010
In the village of al-Awafi in Oman live three sisters. Mayya marries after a heartbreak. Asma marries from a sense of duty. Khawla rejects all offers while waiting for her beloved, who has emigrated to Canada. E

(A review of Jokha Al-harthis's Celestial Bodies
Won International man booker 2019
for English translation by Marilyn Booth
Review first written on June 3, 2019)

When it comes to diversity, International Man Booker presents nice trends - 3 of 4 winners have been from the third world and 3 have been women. That said, Jokha Al-harthi's Celestial Bodies ain't the most deserving one in my arrogant opinion - Annie Ernaux's 'The Years' is the best of 5 books listed in the long list this year that I have read.

The summary saying it is the story of 3 sisters might suggest it is a family story - which it is, but it manages to capture a lot of Onami life including the slave trade, politics, changing education scene, smuggling, etc. In fact, at times, it seemed like the book might as well be described as the story of Abdullah who has to his credit the biggest number of chapters. The stories of 3 sisters, by themselves, get a much smaller number of chapters - in fact, the stories of two younger sisters don't start till much later.

For the most part, the book occurs in flashbacks. Alharthi would pick a character and give his or her character history in a flashback. At times, she takes a character in flashback, then gives a flashback for talking about the history of this new character. It seems that she has used the technique to add flesh to what would otherwise have been a much smaller story. This backward moment doesn't help the confusion created by the excessive multitude of characters though. There are a number of stories lines that have very little by way of inter-connectivity.

Two of four stars are for non-aesthetic reasons like getting a chance to know about life in Oman, a chance to read about modern Arab women, getting a chance to read from Oman where literature in general and women literature, in particular, have found liberty so late.

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