Georgi Gospodinov’s comedy “Time Refuge” wins the Booker Prize

Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov won this year’s Booker International Prize for his novel Time shelter, a hard-hitting comedy set in modern-day Europe that explores political populism and how nostalgia can be used to create a coherent past.

Jury president Leïla Slimani praised the novel as a “profound work that deals with a very contemporary question: what happens to us when our memories disappear?”

“Georgi Goszpodinov wonderfully manages to deal with individual and collective destinies, and it is this complex balance between the intimate and the universal that convinced and touched us.”

Originally published in Bulgarian in 2020, the novel was written before Russia invaded Ukraine, but it is a timely warning of the dangers of reimagined history, especially how it can be used by politicians to promote their own ideas of national identity. The English translation was published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 2022.

This is the first time that the £50,000 prize, shared equally between the author and the book’s translator Angela Rodel, has been awarded to a Bulgarian novel. The announcement was made at a ceremony at London’s Sky Garden on Tuesday night.

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Time Shelter It centers on a mysterious protagonist named Gaustine, who opens a “past clinic” that shelters Alzheimer’s patients by reproducing times when they felt content. Before long, however, healthy people seek refuge from the stress and confusion of contemporary life, and the “time refuge” evolves into an all-consuming project.

The novel also explores themes of dementia, memory and the importance of individual experience. “I come from the generation that was paid with a check for a bright future,” Goszpodinov told an audience at London’s Southbank Center last week. “In communist times, everyone promised us a bright future. Now, thirty years later, the populists are trying to sell me a paycheck from the past. Don’t believe anyone who tries to sell you the past or the future, the check is blank.”

Born in 1968, the author referred to as the “Proust from the East” continues a tradition of biting satire and melancholy humor that is closely linked to Central and Eastern Europe and includes authors such as Milan Kundera and Andrey. Kurkov. He is also a published poet and the author of two previous novels, both of which have been translated into English.

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“I think personal stories still matter. Because populists are actually very good storytellers, and we should be better [them]Gospodinov said.

In addition to Slimani, this year’s Booker jury also included lecturer and translator Uilleam Blacker, novelist Tan Twan Eng, literary critic Parul Sehgal and Frederick Studemann, literary editor of the FT.

Past recipients include author Geetanjali Shree and translator Daisy Rockwell, who received the award last year Grave of sandand David Diop and Anna Moschovakis, who won in 2021 At night, all blood is black.