The International Booker Prize, which honors the best translated fiction from around the world, has announced its 2023 winner: Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov, translated by Angela Rodel. This is the first time that a book written in Bulgarian has won the prestigious award, which comes with a £50,000 prize split equally between the author and translator.
Time Shelter is a novel about a clinic for the past that offers a promising treatment for Alzheimer’s patients: 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.
The novel explores the themes of memory, identity, nostalgia, and Europe through a variety of characters and stories. It is also full of irony and melancholy, as it reflects on the fate of countries like Bulgaria, which have been caught in the ideological conflict between the west and the communist world.
The chair of judges, Leïla Slimani, praised Time Shelter as “a brilliant novel full of irony and melancholy”. She said: “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?” She added: “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.”
Time Shelter is Gospodinov’s fourth book to be translated into English. He is a Bulgarian poet, writer and playwright who has won several awards for his work. Rodel is a musician and literary translator who lives and works in Bulgaria. She has translated more than 50 books from Bulgarian into English.
The novel has received rave reviews from critics and readers alike. Patrick McGuinness in his Guardian review called Gospodinov “a writer of great warmth as well as skill” and said Rodel’s translation was done with “skill and delicacy”. Kirkus Reviews called it “a richly imagined novel that probes the nature of time and memory”. The New York Times said it was “a dazzling feat of storytelling that blends history, fantasy and science fiction”.