Bulgarian first to win International Booker Prize

Bulgarian first to win International Booker Prize

by suswatibasu
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Georgi Gospodinov wins International Booker Prize
Georgi Gospodinov, shortlisted author for Time Shelter attends The International Booker Prize 2023 shortlist readings at Southbank Centre ahead of the winners’ ceremony at Sky Garden on May 23, 2023.

The Booker Prize has announced that Bulgarian author Georgi Gospodinov has won this year’s international award with his book Time Shelter. The announcement made by French author Leila Slimani, revealed that translator Angela Rodel and Gospodinov had won the £50,000 prize, giving them equal recognition.

Who is International Booker Prize winner Georgi Gospodinov?

Georgi Gospodinov is said to be 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. Time Shelter is his third novel to be published in English and 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.

What the winners said:

Speaking about the award, Gospodinov, says that it is “changing the status quo”. He said: “Writers, not only from my country, but also from the Balkans often feel themselves outside the sphere of English-speaking attention. It is commonly assumed that “big themes” are reserved for “big literatures”, or literatures written in big languages, while small languages, somehow by default, are left with the local and the exotic.” The writer believes that every language has the capacity to tell the story of the world and the story of an individual person.

“Writers, not only from my country, but also from the Balkans often feel themselves outside the sphere of English-speaking attention.”

Georgi Gospodinov

Rodel echoed these sentiments, saying translated books should not be considered “second fiddle” in the English-speaking world. The translator, who’s no stranger to the literary world, has won the National Book Center’s 2015 Peroto Prize for best translation from Bulgarian for Physics of Sorrow, the 2016 AATSEEL Prize for Best Book of Literary Translation and was nominated for the three most prestigious translation awards in the US. She added that this type of award, however, challenges “this short-sighted Anglo-centric assumption and demonstrates that we have a moral responsibility to hear voices from beyond our comfort zone, to recognise that the lived experiences of people whose language is not English holds just as much insight into the human condition as our own literature does.” 

Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov wins International Booker Prize
Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov wins International Booker Prize

Chair Slimani called the book “heartbreaking”, a brilliant novel, full of irony and melancholy. She said 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”.

What is Time Shelter about?

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.

Find out more about the rest of the International Booker Prize 2023 nominations and announcement.

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