In a Balkan country mending from years of conflict, Natalia, a young doctor, arrives on a mission of mercy at an orphanage by the sea. By the time she and her lifelong friend Zóra begin to inoculate the children there, she feels age-old superstitions and secrets gathering everywhere around her. Secrets her outwardly cheerful hosts have chosen not to tell her. Secrets involving the strange family digging for something in the surrounding vineyards. Secrets hidden in the landscape itself.
But Natalia is also confronting a private, hurtful mystery of her own: the inexplicable circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather’s recent death. After telling her grandmother that he was on his way to meet Natalia, he instead set off for a ramshackle settlement none of their family had ever heard of and died there alone. A famed physician, her grandfather must have known that he was too ill to travel. Why he left home becomes a riddle Natalia is compelled to unravel.
Grief struck and searching for clues to her grandfather’s final state of mind, she turns to the stories he told her when she was a child. On their weeklytrips to the zoo he would read to her from a worn copy of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, which he carried with him everywhere; later, he told her stories of his own encounters over many years with “the deathless man,” a vagabond who claimed to be immortal and appeared never to age. But the most extraordinary story of all is the one her grandfather never told her, the one Natalia must discover for herself. One winter during the Second World War, his childhood village was snowbound, cut off even from the encroaching German invaders but haunted by another, fierce presence: a tiger who comes ever closer under cover of darkness. “These stories,” Natalia comes to understand, “run like secret rivers through all the other stories” of her grandfather’s life. And it is ultimately within these rich, luminous narratives that she will find the answer she is looking for.
Téa Obreht was born in Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia in 1985 and has lived in the United States since the age of twelve. Her writing has been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, and The Guardian, and has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. She has been named by The New Yorker as one of the twenty best American fiction writers under forty and included in the National Book Foundation’s list of 5 Under 35. Téa Obreht lives in New York.
Mr. Darcy’s passionate avowal of love causes Elizabeth to reevaluate everything she thought she knew about him. What she knows is that he is rich, handsome, clever, and very much in love with her. She, on the other hand, is poor, and can expect a future of increasing poverty if she does not marry. The incentives for her to accept him are strong, but she is honest enough to tell him that she does not return his affections. He says he can accept that—but will either of them ever be truly happy in a relationship of unequal affection?
Diverging from Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice at the proposal in the Hunsford parsonage, this story explores the kind of man Darcy is, even before his “proper humbling,” and how such a man, so full of pride, so much in love, might have behaved had Elizabeth chosen to accept his original proposal.
Men Natalia har også sine egne hemmeligheder og agendaer. Omstændighederne omkring hendes elskede bedstefars død plager hende og driver hende til at følge i sporene på hans sidste rejse til en fattig, ukendt lille by, hvor han døde.
Plaget af sorg og på jagt efter indsigt i sin bedstefars sidste tanker vender Natalia sin opmærksomhed mod de historier, bedstefaren altid fortalte hende som barn. På deres ugentlige ture til den zoologiske have læste bedstefaren op af Kiplings ”Junglebogen”, og da hun blev ældre fortalte han levende om sine møder med ”den udødelige mand”. Men den utroligste historie af dem alle må Natalia selv finde frem til. Nemlig historien om bedstefarens barndom i en landsby, der under 2. verdenskrig, sneet inde og omgivet af tyske soldater, hjemsøges af en tiger, der under dække af natten kommer nærmere og nærmere.
I sidste ende er det i disse vildt voksende og farverige fortællinger Natalia finder svarene på sine spørgsmål om bedstefaren – og om sig selv. Og det er i de samme historier læseren finder nøglen til denne fantastiske roman.
Översättare: Molle Kanmert Sjölander,
Omslagsformgivare: Sofia Scheutz