Friday, 26 June 2009


When she spoke to The Roving Editor back in April, Patricia Engel promised to keep us posted about two book projects she had in the works. Now comes the excellent news that her debut short story collection is to be published in the US by Grove/Atlantic in autumn of next year.

Publishers' Marketplace reports that the book, entitled Vida, 'follows a single narrator growing up in small town New Jersey and navigating her identity as a daughter of the Colombian diaspora'. It will doubtless include the stories 'Lucho' and 'Dia'. This is to be a two-book deal, and Vida will be followed by a novel, as yet untitled.

Here is how Patricia described what motivates her as a writer, and why she is drawn to short stories in particular: 'I love the vulnerability of the form and that there is nowhere for the author to hide. A short story requires swift seduction but can be as memorable and transformative as the drawn out affair of a novel. I write stories for the pure thrill of it. If it didn’t feel like a party when I sit down to write, I probably wouldn’t do it.' (Read the rest of her Q&A here.)

Congratulations, Patricia -- enjoy the party!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009


Téa Obreht wasn't born that long ago (1985), but she is a born storyteller. Her literary launch is an auspicious one, taking place as it does in the pages of the New Yorker's recent summer fiction issue, among such luminaries as Jonathan Franzen, Aleksander Hemon and Yiyun Li.

'The Tiger's Wife', excerpted from Obreht's debut novel of the same name, has the elemental pull of a fable and the rootedness of a folk tale, but from the outset its concerns could not be more urgent and contemporary:

'Having sifted through everything I have heard about the tiger and his wife, I can tell you that this much is fact: in April of 1941, without declaration or warning, the German bombs started falling over the city and did not stop for three days. The tiger did not know that they were bombs . . .'

As we follow the traumatised tiger through the war-ravaged landscape and to the ridge above the village of Galina, he becomes the embodiment of the fears, superstitions and myths of the local people. And for one little boy, the narrator's grandfather, he is Shere Khan come to life from the pages of his beloved Jungle Book.

This is a rich mixture, but the material is beautifully handled by Obreht. The story never gets bogged down in allegory; its resonances ring true. It is the work of an author who is destined for great things.

Obreht, who was born in Belgrade in former Yugoslavia and left in 1992 on the outbreak of war, has said in an interview that her novel is based on personal experiences: 'It’s a family saga that takes place in a fictionalized province of the Balkans. It’s about a female narrator and her relationship to her grandfather, who’s a doctor. It’s a saga about doctors and their relationships to death throughout all these wars in the Balkans.'

The Tiger's Wife will be published in the US in and in the UK in July next year.

(In a departure from The Roving Editor's usual practice, the featured work is not freely available to read online. However I thought the story too exceptional to miss, so I would encourage you to sign up for the New Yorker's free preview of its digital edition here.)

UPDATE: More on Téa here.