‘Celestial Bodies’ Makes Man Booker International Shortlist

This evening, Man Booker International Prize organizers announced the six-book shortlist for the 2019 prize. Author Jokha al-Harthi and translator Marilyn Booth made the list with Celestial Bodies:

The list is made up of six books from five languages. There are two from Spanish (The Shape Of The Ruins, by Juan Gabriel Vásquez and translated by Anne McLean & The Remainderby Alia Trabucco Zerán and translated by Sophie Hughes); one from French (The Yearsby Annie Ernaux and translated by Alison L. Strayer); one from Polish (Drive Your Bones Over the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk and translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones); one from German (The Pine Islands, by Marion Poschmann and translated by Jen Calleja), and Celestial Bodies, from Arabic.

Tokarczuk, as translated by Jennifer Croft, previously won the Man Booker International in 2018 for Flights.

According to organizers:

This year’s stories include the pilgrimage of a lecturer on beard fashions over the pine islands of Matsushima, a tale of Colombian conspiracy theories, and an environmental whodunnit with a cast of eccentric characters. Family connections and history are also present in the coming-of-age account of three Omani sisters, the story of three children of ex-militants overcoming Chile’s complex past, and an evocative narrative of France from 1941 to 2006 which blends the personal and the collective to present memories of a generation.

This year’s panel of judges is being chaired by historian Bettany Hughes, and includes writer, translator and chair of English PEN Maureen Freely; philosopher Professor Angie Hobbs; novelist and satirist Elnathan John and essayist and novelist Pankaj Mishra.

The £50,000 prize for the winning book, set to be announced on May 21, will be divided equally between its author and translator.


Marilyn Booth on Turning ‘Sayyidat al-Qamr’ into ‘Celestial Bodies’

Listen to more on Bulaq Episode 29


  1. I am very pleased for “Celestial Bodies”. I also read “Drive Your Plow” and think it is a deserving contender too. I will have my fingers crossed for both.

  2. Happy to see this make the list, along with most of the other choices (with one glaring exception…).

    1. Personally, I would’ve loved to see a short-story collection, Mouthful of Birds or (obviously) Jokes for the Gunmen. I haven’t read The Pine Islands but your review doesn’t make me want to rush out to rectify that…

      1. As I said in my post earlier, despite being less than impressed with the longlist, this is actually a fairly good shortlist – with one exception! I’m not as big a fan of short stories as you, but I’m surprised neither of the collections made it, given that two were selected in the first case (indicating that someone on the panel was a fan).

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