Time Shelter, written by Georgi Gospodinov and translated from Bulgarian by Angela Rodel, has been announced as the winner of the International Booker Prize 2023.
Time Shelter centres on the first ‘clinic for the past’ for Alzheimer’s sufferers where each floor reproduces a past decade in minute detail, allowing patients to go back in time to unlock what is left of their fading memories. As word spreads about the clinic an increasing number of healthy people seek refuge hoping to escape the horrors of modern life, thereby creating an unexpected conundrum when the past begins to invade the present and the narrator becomes entrenched in a plot to stop time itself.
The winner was announced by chair of the judges, Leïla Slimani, this evening at a ceremony at Sky Garden in London. The £50,000 prize is split between Georgi Gospodinov and Angela Rodel, giving the author and translator equal recognition.
About the Author
Gospodinov 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 today.
La Repubblica described him as ‘A Proust coming from the East’ and he has been praised for ‘smuggling poetry into fiction, his style is both poetic and philosophical yet readable, funny, self-ironic.’ He held a Cullmann Fellowship at the New York Public Library in 2017.
Time Shelter is his third novel to be published in English. The Italian edition won the prestigious European Strega Prize last year. His graphic novel The Eternal Fly was the first Bulgarian graphic novel and his short story Blind Vaysha was adapted into a short animation film that was nominated for an Oscar in 2017. His books are translated into 25 languages.
About the Translator
Angela Rodel was born in Minnesota, USA and is a professional literary translator living and working in Bulgaria. She holds a B.A. from Yale and an M.A. from UCLA in linguistics. She received a 2014 NEA translation grant for Georgi Gospodinov’s novel The Physics of Sorrow, as well as a 2010 PEN Translation Fund Grant for Georgi Tenev’s short story collection Holy Light, the first time a Bulgarian language work has received either award. Her translation of Physics of Sorrow won the National Book Center’s 2015 Peroto Prize for best translation from Bulgarian, the 2016 AATSEEL Prize for Best Book of Literary Translation and was nominated for the three most prestigious translation awards in the US: finalist for the 2016 PEN Translation Prize, the 2016 National Translation Award from the American Literary Translators Association, and Three Percent’s Best Translated Book Award for 2016.
Her poetry and prose translations have also appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies, including McSweeney’s, Little Star, Ploughshares, Granta.org, Two Lines, and Words Without Borders, among others. In 2014, she was awarded Bulgarian citizenship for her translation work and contribution to Bulgarian culture.
About the Judges
This year’s judging panel includes Leïla Slimani (Chair), prize-winning French-Moroccan novelist; Uilleam Blacker, one of Britain’s leading literary translators from Ukrainian; Tan Twan Eng, the Booker-shortlisted Malaysian novelist; Parul Sehgal, staff writer and critic at the New Yorker; and Frederick Studemann, Literary Editor of the Financial Times.
Read an interview with each of the International Booker Prize 2023 judges here.
Leïla Slimani, Chair of Judges for the International Booker Prize 2023, says:
“‘A jury is a complex thing, the alchemy of which is very subtle. It has been an exceptional literary and human experience to be able to discuss books with such passionate readers. Thank you to Parul Sehgal, Tan Twan Eng, Frederick Studemann and Uilleam Blacker; I feel privileged to have been able to feed myself with your culture and your sensitivity.
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.
In scenes that are burlesque as well as heartbreaking, he 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. 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.
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.
The translator, Angela Rodel, has succeeded brilliantly in rendering this style and language, rich in references and deeply free. The past is only ever a story that is told. And not all storytellers have the talent of Georgi Gospodinov and Angela Rodel.”
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Your reading group can select one of the shortlisted titles for your next reading group pick! You can find reading guides to support your discussion here.
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