Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi (tr. Marilyn Booth)

a nutshell: a fragmented but occasionally fascinating insight into Omani culture, zipping back and forth between perspectives from individuals – often women – within a scattered family tree

a line“How liberated a person feels when it’s finally no longer a question of being just an extension or embodiment of someone else’s fancy” (significantly, this is said by a man referring to his father’s diminishing control; women have no such liberation in the narrative)

an image: a father’s resentment and frustration with a baby boy showing autistic traits struck painful blows for me as the sister of someone with autism – at one point the father expresses a desire for the son to fly out of the window like a bird never to return

a thought: it wasn’t until 1970 that Oman outlawed slavery, and the horrifying ramifications of this are felt throughout the novel

a fact: once again I came to understand more of Britain’s role in historical conflicts – Alharthi writes of how, following the 1920 Sib Treaty, Oman was split between the Government of Muscat (with Britain financing the Sultan) and the Imamate, which turned sour after the Sultan signed an agreement for a British firm to do exploratory oil drilling in a desert that lay well within the Imamate’s territories

 

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