The winner of the International Booker Prize 2023 has been announced tonight in London.
Here are the six books on the shortlist, that were under consideration for the prize.
The winner is the Bulgarian novel Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov translated by Angela Rodel.
A ‘clinic for the past’ offers a promising treatment for Alzheimer’s sufferers: each floor reproduces a decade in minute detail, transporting patients back in time.
An unnamed narrator is tasked with collecting the flotsam and jetsam of the past, from 1960s furniture and 1940s shirt buttons to scents, and even afternoon light. But as the rooms become more convincing, an increasing number of healthy people seek out the clinic as a ‘time shelter’, hoping to escape the horrors of modern life – a development that results in an unexpected conundrum when the past begins to invade the present.
Intricately crafted, and eloquently translated by Angela Rodel, Time Shelter cements Georgi Gospodinov’s reputation as one of the indispensable writers of our times, and a major voice in international literature.
Here’s what the judges had to say about the winning novel:
‘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.’
Time Shelter wasn’t on my radar, but I may have to consider it now.
I have read and really enjoyed Still Born by Mexican author Guadalupe Nettel and I am currently reading Whale by South-Korean author Cheon Myeong-kwan and I’m planning to read Boulder by Catalan author Eva Baltasar.
Have you read any from the shortlist? Any thoughts on Time Shelter?
Georgi Gospodinov interview: ‘I suspect my books are not at all easy to translate’
Angela Rodel interview: ‘Translators don’t play second fiddle to authors, it’s more like a duet’
Reading Guide for Time Shelter