Tag: Scotland

Jokha Alharthi Is Man Booker International Prize’s First Arabic Winner

Jokha Alharthi has made literary history as the Man Booker International Prize’s first Arabic winner.


Jokha Alharthi

The Independent

Celestial Bodies follows, according to Amazon, “Mayya, who marries Abdallah after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla, who rejects all offers while waiting for her beloved, who has emigrated to Canada,” as their homeland of Oman transitions from a slave trading center into an oil producer.

Upon publication, the book received rave reviews with The National noting “it ­continually re-­evaluates both present and past” and with the Irish Times stating it “brings a distinctive and important new voice to world literature.”

Almost immediately, the book was put on the shortlist for the Man Booker International Prize.


Man Booker International Prize 2019 Nominees

Image Via Readinggroups.org


It was a tough year though. Not only were all the nominated books massive hits with widespread critical praise, but there had never been so many women shortlisted before. Going up against her fellow female authors, Jokha Alharthi had to contend with many talented women, one of whom was Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk. Tokarczuk previously won the prize just last year in 2018 for her novel Flights, translated by Jennifer Croft, earning the spot as the first Polish writer to win the prize. Plus, Jokha Alharthi didn’t exactly shy away from controversial topics such as gender, race, social distinction, or slavery.


Bettany Hughes

Image Via Four Communications


However, chair of judges for the prize, historian Bettany Hughes, was quoted by The Guardian as saying:

“We felt we were getting access to ideas and thoughts and experiences you aren’t normally given in English. It avoids every stereotype you might expect in its analysis of gender and race and social distinction and slavery. There are surprises throughout. We fell in love with it.”


Jokha Alharthi and Marilyn Booth

Image Via La Times


Thus Jokha Alharthi has managed to win the £50,000 ($63,000) prize with her translator, American academic Marilyn Booth who, according to RTE, “teaches Arabic literature at Oxford University”. This certainly came in handy, considering that The National in their review said, “Booth embroiders the text with the sound of Arabic wherever possible, maintaining rhythm and even rhyme, as well as the crackle and pop of the book’s humour”.


Sandstone Press Logo

Image Via Books from Scotland


The bigger winners here might just be the book’s publisher, Sandstone Press. BBC News wrote that the “small company in Dingwall, Scotland,” has only “four full-time staff members” who “[put] out between 20 and 25 books per year.”

Not surprisingly, a spokesperson from Sandstone said the win was “extremely exciting” for the team, noting that “our editor really championed Celestial Bodies, she saw something special in it.”

I’d give that editor a raise.



Featured Image Via CBC.ca

Scotland’s First Space Pilot Took Children’s Book With Him Into Space!

On February 22nd, 2019, the first Scottish person went into space. His name was David Mackay and he was inspired at an early age when he was given a book in his small village back in the 60s. According to the BBC he was given the book Exploring Space  as a reward for his good attendance in Sunday school in 1964. David Mackay revealed he was inspired by the book to become a pilot and eventually travel into space. His first dream was fulfilled by becoming a test pilot and eventually, the second was also completed when he became the Chief Pilot of Virgin Galactic.



A spaceship flies low over the Earth's atmosphere in the vacuum of space

Image Via BBC

Mackay joined the RAF in the 1990s and worked with them as a military/test pilot for sixteen years. After that, he flew an Airbus and Boeing 747 passenger craft before becoming Virgin Galactic’s Chief Pilot, helping to push the company forward to offer flights into space itself. When he took a ‘space plane’ out of Earth’s atmosphere, he guided it almost 56 miles above our planet. When he went up there, he took Exploring Space with him, showcasing the effect and great impact the book had on his life. Mackay’s journey is inspiring, showing the impact a book can have on you, no matter how big or small, and showcasing how one can follow their dreams from reading.

We hope to see Mackay continue to fly, journeying into the final frontier beyond the confines of Earth,  with his trusted childhood favorite by his side! Maybe someday, we’ll be flying on one of his space planes and journey upward on a galactic vacation!

Are there any books that inspired you at a young age? Tell us in the comments! Maybe you have a similar story to David Mackay.



Featured Image Via BBC