This year’s £30,000 (34,000 euros) Orange Prize for literary fiction went to a debut novel that tells a story about the conflict in the Balkans.
25-year-old Serbian-American author Téa Obreht picked up the award for her novel ‘The Tiger’s Wife’. She is the youngest writer to have won the prize for excellence and originality in women’s writing from throughout the world, now in its 16th year.
Bettany Hughes, Chair of Judges, said: “Obreht’s powers of observation and her understanding of the world are remarkable. By skilfully spinning a series of magical tales she has managed to bring the tragedy of chronic Balkan conflict thumping into our front rooms with a bittersweet vivacity.”
According to the Orange website, Ms. Obreht was born in 1985 in the former Yugoslavia and raised in Belgrade. In 1992 her family moved to Cyprus and then to Egypt, where she learned to speak and read English, eventually emigrating to the United States in 1997. After graduating from the University of Southern California, she received her MFA in Fiction from the Creative Writing Program at Cornell University in 2009.
Previous winners of the Orange Prize include Zadie Smith, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Kate Grenville and Helen Dunmore.
A tiger escapes from the local zoo, padding through the ruined streets and onwards, to a ridge above the Balkan village of Galina. His nocturnal visits hold the villagers in a terrified thrall. But for one boy, the tiger is a thing of magic – Shere Khan awoken from the pages of The Jungle Book.
Years later, in a Balkan country ravaged by conflict, Natalia, a young doctor, is visiting an orphanage when she receives word of her beloved grandfather’s death far from their home in mysterious circumstances. Remembering fragments of the stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia becomes convinced that he spent his last days searching for ‘the deathless man’, a vagabond who was said to be immortal. As Natalia struggles to understand why her grandfather, a deeply rational man, would go on such a far-fetched journey, she stumbles across a clue that leads her to the extraordinary story of the tiger’s wife.
By Ali Sheikholeslami