International Booker Prize Winner 2023

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.

International Booker Prize shortlist 2023

The winner is the Bulgarian novel Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov translated by Angela Rodel.


Winner of the International Booker Prize 2023

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.

Judges’ Verdict

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?

Further Reading

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

Read an Extract from Time Shelter

17 thoughts on “International Booker Prize Winner 2023

  1. I don’t follow book competitions and awards so hadn’t come across this title, but it is definitely going on my list. And I’ve never read a Bulgarian novel, so another attraction there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure I have either, and that is as good a reason as any! I do love seeing the long list for this prize, the allure of literary gems from around the world, translated fiction just gets better and better every year, now that’s its finally getting discovered and becoming more popular, despite attempts to keep us monocultural.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Really surprised Still Born didn’t win. Have heard great things about that novel. However Time Shelter does sound interesting. Love the cover! I’m looking forward to reading Fire Rush too. I’ll be spearheading a read along for it in October in honor of Black History Month UK.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I loved Still Born and I’m sure it’s going to gain more readership. Leila Slimani’s speech did make this sound enticing (did you watch it live?). The entire shortlist was pretty good I thought.
      Fire Rush is on my TBR and I’m aiming to read it before the women’s prize announcement. I heard there’s a playlist out too!


      • No I didn’t watch it. But yes I agree the list always looks interesting. One day I’ll get to Still born. Can’t wait to see what’s going to be on The Booker longlist August 1st. I was also happy to see Adjoa Andoh and Esi Edugyan are judges this year. 😆

        Liked by 1 person

        • I watched Adjoa Andoh read an extract from Maryse Condé’s ‘The Gospel According to the New World, it was excellent. The judging panels are certainly getting better, no surprise that there’s a greater diversity of longlists as a result.


        • Yes, I didn’t rush to read this last one of Condé’s but I think I will eventually, since I’m slowly making my way through her entire oeuvre. I think it’s easier to appreciate her work, when you’ve read about 8 of her very various novels. 🙂


        • I need to read more by her. I will go on with Crossing the Mangrove and Ségu. After that not sure what ill went to continue with. Ideas?


        • Her nonfiction debut is great, Tales From the Heart and then Victoire: My Mother’s Mother. Segu is a masterpiece but not an easy read, and I, Tituba also not easy but good to read alongside Ann Petry’s Tituba. Crossing the Mangrove I loved, but better to read that after her more challenging works, the debut stories set the scene.


  3. I’ve read and hugely admire Time Shelter- reviewed in my blog Peak Reads. It’s a worthy winner with its themes of time and memory, and how these can be dangerously subverted. I also read and enjoyed Still Born, though didn’t think it had the heft to be a winner.


    • I really enjoyed Still Born too and I’m going to read Boulder. Perhaps Time Shelter was seen as being more universal, it sounds like they had a robust process for discussing all the shortlisted novels, I enjoyed listening to Leila Slimani’s (Chair of Judges) speech before the announcement.

      Liked by 1 person

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