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On Téa Obreht's Balkan Literary Magical Realism
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On Téa Obreht's Balkan Literary Magical Realism

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Updated: 3 January 2017
Born in 1985 in the former Yugoslavia, Téa Obreht is a young Serbian-American writer who has been catching the world’s attention. Published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Zoetrope: All-Story, The New York Times, and The Guardian, Obreht was also awarded the prestigious Orange Prize in 2011 for her debut release, The Tiger’s Wife.

© Random House

For many young writers, publishing their first novel is an incredible achievement that symbolizes the true start of their career. For Téa Obreht however, her debut appearance was not only the start of her professional life as a published author, but also as an internationally acclaimed one. The young Serbian-American’s first book, a collection of short stories entitled The Tiger’s Wife, won the Orange Prize for Literature in 2011. A prestigious prize which every year is awarded to the best Anglophone female writer, this award has drawn the globe’s attention to Obreht’s work and has been followed by widespread praise.

In The Tiger’s Wife, Obreht’s stories aim to re-tell and re-share ex-Yugoslavian narratives, Balkan myths and characters, which she combines with other literary traditions, such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s magic realism. Like Marquez, Téa Obreht’s writing is nourished by imagination and freedom, and Publishers Weekly have added further applaud, stating that she ‘is an expert at depicting history through aftermath, people through the love they inspire, and place through the stories that endure’. Captivating literary circles around the world, Obreht has been compared to Hemingway, Andrić and Bulgakov among others, whose short stories have already showed their persistence despite the passage of time and memory.

While some might suggest it is too early to analyze Obreht’s style after only one book, the extent to which her writing has been praised cannot be ignored. Obreht was named one of the 20 best American fiction writers under 40 by The New Yorker and was also included in the National Book Foundation’s list of five Under 35; it seems that there is universal agreement over her unbounded talent.

Watch an interview with Obreht below:

Not only influenced by her youth in Yugoslavia, Obreht’s childhood was also spent in Cyprus and Egypt, before eventually moving to the United States in 1997. This diverse cultural upbringing is evident in Obreht’s work and can be seen as one of the resounding attributes of her enchanting voice.

Although still early in her career, literary fans wait in anticipation of Obreht’s next release. This next publication will provide further opportunity to analyze Obreht’s literary style, and will reveal whether she can combine her diverse influences into a meaningful whole.