Téa Obreht is 26-years old, and she's already received wide acclaim for her first novel, The Tiger's Wife. Last summer, she won the Orange Prize awarded to the best English-language book written by a woman. Now The Tiger's Wife is one of five works nominated for this year's National Book Award in fiction.
The novel gained attention for the deftness with which it shifts between realism and fable. The main character is a young woman in Belgrade who comes to terms with her grandfather's mysterious death and reflects on the surreal stories he used to tell, including the time he met The Deathless Man.
Not bad for someone who learned English as a child from bootlegged Disney movies. But Obreht still doesn't quite trust her success. She tells Kurt Andersen, "In Balkan culture, you find five bucks on the floor, next thing you know you're being run over by a train."
(Originally aired: June 24, 2011)
Check out our recent blog post to hear Kurt's interviews with some of this year's other National Book Award nominees, including Stephen Greenblatt and the late Manning Marable.