New Delhi: The 2023 International Booker Prize has been awarded to Georgi Gospodinov’s Time Shelter, translated by Angela Rodel. This is the first Bulgarian novel to win the coveted prize meant specifically for books written in other languages and translated into English.
“Our winner, Time Shelter, is a brilliant novel, full of irony and melancholy. It is a profound work that deals with a very contemporary question: What happens to us when our memories disappear? Georgi Gospodinov succeeds marvellously in dealing with both individual and collective destinies and it is this complex balance between the intimate and the universal that convinced and touched us,” chair of judges Leïla Slimani said.
Time Shelter is about “a ‘clinic for the past’ [that] offers a promising treatment for Alzheimer’s sufferers: each floor reproduces a decade in minute detail, transporting patients back in time. But soon the past begins to invade the present,” according to the International Booker Prize website.
“My urge to write this book came from the sense that something had gone awry in the clockworks of time. You could catch the scent of anxiety hanging in the air, you could touch it with your finger. After 2016 we seemed to be living in another world and another time. The world’s disintegration with the encroachment of populism and playing the card of the ‘great past’ in the US and in Europe provoked me. Brexit was the other trigger. I come from a system that sold a ‘bright future’ under communism. Now the stakes have shifted, and populists are selling a ‘bright past’. I know via my own skin that both cheques bounce, they are backed by nothing. And that’s why I wanted to tell this story about the ‘referendums on the past’, undertaken by every European country. How does one live with a deficit of meaning and future? What do we do when the pandemic of the past engulfs us? The last chapter of the novel describes how the past comes to life: the troops and tanks amassed to reenact the beginning of World War II unexpectedly invade the neighbouring country’s territory. The novel was published in Bulgarian in 2020,” Gospodinov said about the book in an interview.
Gospodinov is a Bulgarian poet, writer and playwright. According to The Guardian, when Time Shelter was published in Bulgaria, it topped the book charts and won the Strega European prize.
Rodel is a musician and literary translator who lives and works in Bulgaria.
Last year, Geetanjali Shree’s Tomb of Sand, translated by Daisy Rockwell, had become the first Hindi novel to win the International Booker.