Translated From Bulgarian Time Shelter Wins The International Booker Prize 2023
A ‘clinic for the past’ offers a promising treatment for Alzheimer’s sufferers: each floor reproduces a decade in minute detail, transporting patients back in time. An unnamed narrator is tasked with collecting the flotsam and jetsam of the past, from 1960s furniture and 1940s shirt buttons to scents, and even afternoon light. But as the rooms become more convincing, an increasing number of healthy people seek out the clinic as a ‘time shelter’, hoping to escape the horrors of modern life - a development that results in an unexpected conundrum when the past begins to invade the present.
According to Leila Sllimani, the chair of the judges, "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... It is a novel that invites reflection and vigilance as much as it moves us, because the language - sensitive and precise - manages to capture, in a Proustian vein, the extreme fragility of the past. And it mixes, in its very form, a great modernity with references to the major texts of European literature, notably through the character of Gaustine, an emanation from a world on the verge of extinction."
Georgi Gospodinov was born in Yambol, Bulgaria, and his works have been translated to acclaim in 25 languages. He is the most translated and internationally awarded Bulgarian writer to emerge after the fall of communism. His novels, poems, essays, screenplays and graphic novels have established him as one of the leading voices of European literature. Time Shelter is his third novel to be published in English. The Italian edition of the book won the prestigious Premio Strega Europeo prize last year.
"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," Georgi Gospodinov explained the idea of writing Time Shelter.
The winner was competing with the following five novels shortlisted to the International Booker Prize: