More from the Summer Fiction Issue.
Congratulations to Téa Obreht, a recent MFA grad, for placing this fiction in The New Yorker. It seemed well done, one of those possibly allegorical pieces that The New Yorker runs from time to time. In this case, the tiger wandering around Europe might just be a tiger, but it might also be something else. Fascism perhaps? Islam? But wait. The contributors’ notes tell us that Obreht has a novel coming out in 2010. A quick search of Publisher’s Marketplace reveals that, indeed, THE TIGER’S WIFE was recently sold to Dial Press. It is described this way: Téa Obreht's THE TIGER'S WIFE, set in war-torn Yugoslavia, where a young doctor strives to unravel the mystery of her grandfather's death, and to understand why, in his last days, he went looking for a mythical figure called "the Deathless Man." So, I’m guessing this isn’t intended as allegory, but it’s hard to know since we’re dealing with another novel excerpt and not a short story.
The excerpt is about a tiger who escapes from a zoo during a German bombing raid in WW II. Having been raised in captivity, the tiger isn’t sure how to hunt, and he isn’t very good at it, and this part of the story is beautifully imagined. He eventually comes to a village where he is aided by the “Muhammadan” wife of the butcher, who comes to be known to the villagers as “the tiger’s wife.” But the story of the woman is twice filtered. The narrator is the granddaughter of a boy who lived in the village. Not only is he not central to the excerpt’s action (judging by the description in PM, the books more about his life), but he has passed along a story that he has probably embellished, or that time has altered. It’s hard to know.
Having said that, unlike many excerpts we read in The New Yorker, this one holds up reasonably well as a story, and I'll be looking for the novel when it comes out next year.
June 8 & 15, 2009: "The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht (The story isn't available online except to registered subscribers.)