Bulgarian writer wins Booker International Prize for darkly comic memoir
LONDON — Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov and translator Angela Rodel won the Booker International Prize on Tuesday for “Time Shelter,” a darkly comic novel about the dangerous appeal of nostalgia.
The book beat out five other finalists for the award, which recognizes fiction translated into English from around the world. The £50,000 ($62,000) prize money is split between the author and the translator.
“Time Shelter” imagines a clinic that recreates the past, with each floor reproducing a different decade. It aims to help dementia sufferers unlock their memories and will soon attract those looking to escape the modern world.
Goszpodinov, 55, said he began writing his book on “the weaponization of nostalgia” in 2016, the year of Donald Trump’s election and the UK’s Brexit referendum. He said it was a time when “anxiety was in the air”.
“I wanted to write a novel about a monster from the past,” he said. “Because at this time you can see … that populist politics actually paid us with the blank check of the past.”
French novelist Leila Slimani, who is president of the jury, said it was “a brilliant novel full of irony and melancholy”.
“This is a very profound work that deals with both a contemporary and a philosophical question: What happens to us when our memories disappear?” – He told.
“But it’s also a great novel about Europe, a continent that needs a future, where the past is reinvented and where nostalgia can be poison.”
Goszpodinov is one of Bulgaria’s most translated authors. “Time Shelter” won the Strega European Prize in Italy for literature translated into Italian.
The Booker International Prize is awarded each year to a translated work of fiction published in the United Kingdom or Ireland. It runs alongside the Booker Prize for English-language fiction, which is presented in the autumn.
The award was created to promote non-language fiction – which makes up only a small proportion of books published in Britain – and to honor the under-appreciated work of translators.
Last year’s winners were the Indian writer Geetanjali Shree and the American translator Daisy Rockwell for the film Sand Grave.
Rodel said he was grateful for the award for rejecting the belief that “if you’re a good translator, maybe you shouldn’t be noticed.”
“It’s a creative process,” he said. “This is definitely a collaborative piece of art that we create together with our authors. I am extremely grateful to the Booker for bringing this to the fore in this award.”