Georgi Gospodinov’s Time Shelter, translated by Angela Rodel, has become the first book written in Bulgarian to win the International Booker prize, The Guardian reports.
According to the newspaper, Chair of judges Leïla Slimani described Time Shelter as “a brilliant novel full of irony and melancholy”, and added: “It is a very profound work that deals with a contemporary question and also a philosophical question: what happens to us when our memories disappear?”
The £50,000 prize, which is split equally between the author and translator, is awarded annually for a novel or short story collection in any language that has been translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland.
Time Shelter is Gospodinov’s fourth book to be translated into English. It concerns the opening of a “clinic for the past” that offers a promising treatment for Alzheimer’s sufferers: each floor reproduces a decade in minute detail, with everything from furniture, cigarettes and drinks from the era, to newspapers that cover each day of the decade. As word spreads, healthy people begin to seek refuge in the clinic to escape the horrors of modern life.
Slimani said the novel “questions the way in which our memory is the cement of our identity and our intimate narrative.
“But it is also a great novel about Europe, a continent in need of a future, where the past is reinvented and nostalgia is a poison,” she continued. “It offers us a perspective on the destiny of countries like Bulgaria, which have found themselves at the heart of the ideological conflict between the west and the communist world.”
Slimani was joined on the judging panel by Uilleam Blacker, one of Britain’s leading literary translators from Ukrain, Booker-shortlisted novelist Tan Twan Eng, New Yorker staff writer Parul Sehgal and Frederick Studemann, literary editor of the Financial Times.
Gospodinov is a Bulgarian poet, writer and playwright. When published in Bulgaria, Time Shelter topped the book charts, and won the Strega European prize. Rodel is a musician and literary translator who lives and works in Bulgaria.