Hate to say I told you so, but…
Téa Obreht Wins 2011 Orange Prize For Fiction
Posted at 8:21PM Wednesday 08 Jun 2011
Serbian/American author Téa Obreht has won the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction with her debut novel The Tiger's Wife (Weidenfeld & Nicolson). At 25, Obreht is the youngest-ever author to take the Prize.
Celebrating its sixteenth anniversary this year, the Prize celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women's writing from throughout the world.
At an awards ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London, hosted by Orange Prize for Fiction Co-Founder and Honorary Director, Kate Mosse, the 2011 Chair of Judges, Bettany Hughes, presented the author with the £30,000 prize and the 'Bessie', a limited edition bronze figurine. Both are anonymously endowed.
Bettany Hughes, Chair of Judges, said: "'The Tiger's Wife is an exceptional book and Téa Obreht is a truly exciting new talent. 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."
She continues, "The book reminds us how easily we can slip into barbarity, but also of the breadth and depth of human love. Obreht celebrates storytelling and she helps us to remember that it is the stories that we tell about ourselves, and about others, that can make us who we are and the world what it is."
The Orange Prize for Fiction was set up in 1996 to celebrate and promote fiction written by women throughout the world to the widest range of readers possible. The Orange Prize is awarded to the best novel of the year written in English by a woman.
The judges for the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction are:
Bettany Hughes, (Chair), Broadcaster, Historian and Author
Liz Calder, founder-director of Bloomsbury Publishing and Full Circle Editions
Tracy Chevalier, Novelist
Helen Lederer, Actress and Writer
Susanna Reid, Journalist and Broadcaster
Stuart Jackson, Brand Communications Director at Orange, said: "2011 has been a particularly exciting year for us. We've engaged a whole new generation of readers by taking the Orange Prize digital. Our new online and mobile Orange Book store is giving readers a truly 21st century book-buying and reading experience, allowing them to interact with a vast catalogue of superb literary feasts, including this year's remarkable and rich Orange Prize for Fiction shortlist. It's a shortlist that reflects the fantastic range and diversity of women's fiction – but even from such an exceptional bunch of authors, there can only be one winner. Many congratulations to Téa Obreht."
Téa 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 immigrating to the United States in 1997. After graduating from the University of Southern California, Téa received her MFA in Fiction from the Creative Writing Program at Cornell University in 2009. Téa was featured in The New Yorker's Top 20 Writers under 40 Fiction Issue (June 2010) and at 24, was the youngest on the list. Her short story, The Laugh, debuted in The Atlantic fiction issue and was then chosen for The Best American Short Stories 2010, a further short story, The Sentry, featured in the Guardian Summer Fiction Issue. Her journalism has appeared in Harper's magazine and she lives in Ithaca, New York.
The Tiger's Wife
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.
Previous winners of the Orange Prize are Barbara Kingsolver for The Lacuna (2010), Marilynne Robinson for Home (2009), Rose Tremain for The Road Home (2008), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for Half of a Yellow Sun (2007), Zadie Smith for On Beauty (2006), Lionel Shriver for We Need to Talk About Kevin (2005), Andrea Levy for Small Island (2004), Valerie Martin for Property (2003), Ann Patchett for Bel Canto (2002), Kate Grenville for The Idea of Perfection (2001), Linda Grant for When I Lived in Modern Times (2000), Suzanne Berne for A Crime in the Neighbourhood (1999), Carol Shields for Larry's Party (1998), Anne Michaels for Fugitive Pieces (1997), and Helen Dunmore for A Spell of Winter (1996).
The 2011 award ceremony was sponsored by HTC, who helped showcase the Orange Book Store and Orange Prize Facebook and Twitter pages on their new HTC Flyer Tablet. The awards took place in The Clore Ballroom of the Royal Festival Hall, central London and guests toasted the announcement of the winner at a champagne drinks reception courtesy of Taittinger. In addition to the Orange Prize for Fiction winner announcement, aspiring novelist Bettany Whittle was named as the winner of the Orange/Grazia First Chapter Competition for unpublished writers.