Saturday, June 11, 2011

"The Tiger's Wife Wins" the Orange Prize

Not about Tiger Woods' wife!  Written by first time novelist Tea Obrecht, who just won the prestigious Orange prize for her efforts, it's a novel that interweaves myths and legends of the Balkans, where she was born, into its story.

Thanks to Robur d'Amour, who posted a comment about the book/award under "The World Is Going To The Dogs." 

Several reviews are available online.  I read one published by (National Public Radio), 'The Tiger's Wife:' A Young Talent Takes On Folklore (March 11, 2011), that contains an absolutely fascinating description of a belief about the soul after a person dies:

The forty days of the soul begin on the morning after death. That first night, before its forty days begin, the soul lies still against sweated-on pillows and watches the living fold the hands and close the eyes, choke the room with smoke and silence to keep the new soul from the doors and the windows and the cracks in the floor so that it does not run out of the house like a river. The living know that, at daybreak, the soul will leave them and make its way to the places of its past—the schools and dormitories of its youth, army barracks and tenements, houses razed to the ground and rebuilt, places that recall love and guilt, difficulties and unbridled happiness, optimism and ecstasy, memories of grace meaningless to anyone else—and sometimes this journey will carry it so far for so long that it will forget to come back. For this reason, the living bring their own rituals to a standstill: to welcome the newly loosed spirit, the living will not clean, will not wash or tidy, will not remove the soul's belongings for forty days, hoping that sentiment and longing will bring it home again, encourage it to return with a message, with a sign, or with forgiveness.

If it is properly enticed, the soul will return as the days go by, to rummage through drawers, peer inside cupboards, seek the tactile comfort of its living identity by reassessing the dish rack and the doorbell and the telephone, reminding itself of functionality, all the time touching things that produce sound and make its presence known to the inhabitants of the house.

The Orange prize

Launched in 1996, the Orange prize celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women's writing from throughout the world. The winner receives a cheque for £30,000 and a limited edition bronze known as a 'Bessie', created by the artist Grizel Niven. 

Coverage at BBC


John Webb said...

What actually caught my attention about this book (besides tigers) is that the genre is described as 'magical realism'.

I was watching TV news, before the ceremony. The 10 shorted-list books were listed, and this one was described as 'magical realism'. Magical realism is a phrase that is not very common. I've only heard one other book described like that, last year: 'One Hundred Years of Solitude'. That is the book from which the name Macondo originated, and we know what happened there.

Magical Realism is a story where magic permeates the world of the story. But, actually, on occasions, it permeates genuine reality too.

So I made a point of watching the prize ceremony later on that evening. And the book won.

The chairwoman of the judges was Bethany Hughes, writer of serious books on ancient history, author of Helen of Troy, etc. She made a few remarks about books which change people's perception of the world. It was all highly interesting.

Jan said...

When I read about the Orange prize being for female writers I just had to post about it. The Tiger's Wife sounds like a rip-roaring good story. We are particularly interested in ancient myths and legends and elements of commonality. The excerpt I read in the review at NPR about the 40 days of the wandering soul was entirely new to me and absolutely fascinating. I think this is the same region from which myths about Baba Yaga arose. Her figure exists in many cultures as the "crone."

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