Georgi Gospodinov’s comic book ‘Time Shelter’ has won the Booker prize

Bulgarian author Georgi Gospodinov has won this year’s International Booker Prize for his book. Bedtime, a comedy set in modern day Europe that examines political populism and how nostalgia can be used to shape history.

Leïla Slimani, chairman of the jury, praised the book as “a profound work that answers a modern question: what happens to us when our memory fades?”

“Georgi Gospodinov is amazingly successful in dealing with the fate of the individual and the group and it is this tension between the intimate and the environment that convinced and touched us.”

Originally published in Bulgarian in 2020, the book was completed in Russia before the events in Ukraine, but it offers timely warnings about the dangers of re-imagined history, especially how it can be used by politicians to promote their national ideology. An English translation was published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 2022.

This is the first time that the £50,000 prize, which will be shared equally between the book’s author and translator Angela Rodel, has been awarded to a book in Bulgarian. This was announced at an event held at the Sky Garden in London on Tuesday evening.

Time Shelter tells the story of a mysterious scientist named Gaustine who opens a “hospital of the past” that provides a safe haven for Alzheimer’s patients by recreating the time they were content with. However, before long, healthy people are running away from the problems and chaos of modern life, and the “time hideout” is becoming a constant waste of time.

The book also explores the topics of dementia, memory and the importance of personal information. “I’m from a generation that was paid with a future cheque,” Gospodinov told an audience at London’s Southbank Center last week. “Everyone during the communist era promised us a better future. Now, thirty years later, the audience is trying to sell me a pay check. Don’t believe that anyone who wants to sell you past or future, checks don’t matter.

The writer, who was born in 1968 and has been described as “Proust coming from the East”, continues the tradition of lame and satirical humor that is closely related to Central and Eastern Europe, and includes writers such as Milan Kundera and Andrey. Kurkov. He is also a published poet, and the author of two previous books, both of which have been translated into English.

“I think my stories are important. Because populists are very good commentators, and we should be better than that [them],” said Gospodinov.

As well as Slimani, this year’s Booker judging panel included lecturer and translator Uilleam Blacker, novelist Tan Twan Eng, literary critic Parul Sehgal and FT literary editor Frederick Studemann.

Previous winners include author Geetanjali Shree and translator Daisy Rockwell who last year received the award. Graveyard of Sandand David Diop and Anna Moschovakis who won in 2021 and At night all blood is black.

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