Highlands & Islands

Scottish publisher revels in International Man Booker win

Jokha Alharthi Image copyright Sandstone Press
Image caption Jokha Alharthi's prize-winning novel was published by Highlands-based publisher Sandstone Press

A publishing company that was started in a spare room of a house 17 years ago is basking in the success of this year's Man Booker International Prize.

Sandstone Press, in Dingwall in the Highlands, published the English translation of Jokha Alharthi's winning novel Celestial Bodies.

Omani author Alharthi is the first Arabic writer to be awarded the prize.

Sandstone's founder Robert Davidson said everyone at the company was "delighted and proud" of her win.

The book represents the small independent publisher's biggest print run.

Celestial Bodies is the story of the history and people of modern Oman told through one family's losses and loves. It was translated by Prof Marilyn Booth.

Alharthi, the author of two collections of short fiction, a children's book and three novels, completed a PhD in Edinburgh and teaches at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat, Oman.

Image copyright Gary Anthony
Image caption Robert Davidson said Alharthi's win was a milestone achievement for Sandstone Press

Glasgow-born Mr Davidson worked as a local authority civil engineer before starting Sandstone Press at his home in Dingwall in 2002 because of his passion for writing and reading.

His partner Moira Forsyth is editorial director at the company, which has a team of 10, four of them full-time staff members.

It publishes between 20 and 25 books per year and its books include Babylon Berlin by German author Volker Kutscher. The story set in 1920s Berlin was recently adapted for television.

Over the years, Sandstone Press books has won many literary prizes. In 2011 and 2013, it had books longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Image copyright Sandstone Press
Image caption Celestial Bodies was translated into English by Prof Marilyn Booth

Mr Davidson said he and his team were delighted by Alharthi's win.

He said: "The Man Booker International Prize of 2019 is not only a first for Oman but also a milestone achievement for this company.

"More importantly, the people of Oman, and especially the women of Oman and the wider region, have a new star to follow in the shape of a young author who is only at the beginning of what I believe will be a lifetime of achievement.

"We all have much to celebrate."

Alharthi said she was "absolutely thrilled" by her book's success.

She said: "It is a great honour and I hope it will open a window to Arabic literature and Omani literature in particular. I feel incredibly proud."

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