Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The New Yorker: "The Tiger's Wife" by Téa Obreht

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.)


Laura van den Berg said...

I was really intrigued by this excerpt. I loved the parable-like quality, the rich imagination, and the way the whole narrative expanded so beautifully in that last section. I'll be checking out the novel next year as well.

Adventurous Putty said...

I'm actually very disappointed that it's a novel excerpt, as I thought it held together nicely as a short story about different perspectives to the same event melding over time until it becomes myth, true only in its purest sentiment but important nonetheless.

Oh well. I'm still looking forward to her book.

Lion-ess said...

got a copy of the book from a friend. So looking forward to reading it! It'll be published March 2011.

Legend Cars Limo and Towncar Airport Transfers said...

Beautiful prose, great characters, the constant pervasive feeling of magic and mystery, it's really a beautiful book. If you like this one, I would recommend Dalva, and Lord of Misrule. They have different prose styles, but the same feeling and great characters (and, coincidentally, the main character in each of these novels is a woman). Among my favorite novels, for sure, it was one of those that made me sad when it ended, only because it had ended.

http://www.1stopseoexpert.com said...

For a book about war and death, it does an adequate job. To appreciate the grandfather and the stories he told, one should read Kipling's Jungle Book first. I wasn't interested enough to do so.