Today, May 23, Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov, translated by Angela Rodel, is announced as the winner of the International Booker Prize 2023
Time Shelter, written by novelist and poet Georgi Gospodinov, and translated from Bulgarian by Angela Rodel, has been announced as the winner of the International Booker Prize 2023. The £50,000 prize is split between Georgi Gospodinov and Angela Rodel, giving the author and translator equal recognition. The winner was announced by chair of the judges, Leïla Slimani, this evening at a ceremony at Sky Garden in London.
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.
‘Gospodinov is one of Europe’s most fascinating and irreplaceable novelists, and this his most expansive, soulful and mind-bending book’ - Dave Eggers
Georgi Gospodinov, says:
‘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. Awards like the International Booker Prize are changing that status quo, and this is very important. I think every language has the capacity to tell the story of the world and the story of an individual person.’
Angela Rodel, says:
‘There unfortunately seems to be a chauvinistic belief in the English-speaking world that translations are ‘second fiddle’, somehow less-than or less desirable than original works in English. A major international prize like the International Booker 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.’
The past is only ever a story that is told. And not all storytellers have the talent of Georgi Gospodinov and Angela Rodel
‘A jury is a complex thing, the alchemy of which is very subtle. It has been an exceptional literary and human experience to be able to discuss books with such passionate readers. Thank you to Parul Sehgal, Tan Twan Eng, Frederick Studemann and Uilleam Blacker; I feel privileged to have been able to feed myself with your culture and your sensitivity.
‘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.’
‘Leila Slimani and her fellow judges have read between 25,000 and 30,000 pages of translated fiction to arrive at the winner of the International Booker Prize 2023. They have discussed history, memory, lust, passion, childbirth and resurrection. With great care and a deep intelligence they have selected an unforgettable book; and an author and translator working at the peak of their powers.’
Time Shelter was chosen by the International Booker Prize 2023 judges from a ‘subversive and sensual’ shortlist of six books announced in April. This year, 134 books published in the UK or Ireland between May 1, 2022 and April 30, 2023 were submitted to the prize by publishers.
This year’s judging panel includes Leïla Slimani (Chair), prize-winning French-Moroccan novelist; Uilleam Blacker, one of Britain’s leading literary translators from Ukrainian; Tan Twan Eng, the Booker-shortlisted Malaysian novelist; Parul Sehgal, staff writer and critic at the New Yorker; and Frederick Studemann, Literary Editor of the Financial Times.
Read an interview with each of the International Booker Prize 2023 judges here.
Gospodinov is 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.
La Repubblica described him as ‘A Proust coming from the East’ and he has been praised for ‘smuggling poetry into fiction, his style is both poetic and philosophical yet readable, funny, self-ironic.’ He held a Cullmann Fellowship at the New York Public Library in 2017.
Time Shelter is the third of his books to be published in English and it 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.
Angela Rodel was born in Minnesota, USA and is a professional literary translator living and working in Bulgaria. She holds a B.A. from Yale and an M.A. from UCLA in linguistics. She received a 2014 NEA translation grant for Georgi Gospodinov’s novel The Physics of Sorrow, as well as a 2010 PEN Translation Fund Grant for Georgi Tenev’s short story collection Holy Light, the first time a Bulgarian language work has received either award. Her translation of Physics of Sorrow won the National Book Center’s 2015 Peroto Prize for best translation from Bulgarian, the 2016 AATSEEL Prize for Best Book of Literary Translation and was nominated for the three most prestigious translation awards in the US: finalist for the 2016 PEN Translation Prize, the 2016 National Translation Award from the American Literary Translators Association, and Three Percent’s Best Translated Book Award for 2016.
Her poetry and prose translations have also appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies, including McSweeney’s, Little Star, Ploughshares, Granta.org, Two Lines, and Words Without Borders, among others. In 2014, she was awarded Bulgarian citizenship for her translation work and contribution to Bulgarian culture.
Data compiled by Nielsen for the Booker Prize Foundation shows that, in the UK, readers of translated fiction are significantly younger than readers of fiction overall. Under 35s now account for almost half of all the UK’s translated fiction purchases: the largest group, 25 to 34-year-olds, purchased almost a quarter (24.9%) of all translated fiction in 2022; 13 to 24-year-olds bought a further 17.3%, bringing the total proportion of translated fiction bought by readers under the age of 35 to 48.2%. By comparison, the biggest demographic group for fiction in general is made up of readers aged 60 to 84.
The proportion of younger readers of translated fiction is also growing: that 24.9% of translated fiction bought by 25 to 34-year-olds in 2002 is up from 21% in 2021. In addition, 48% of translated fiction buyers in the UK are male, compared with only 32% of fiction buyers overall. Read more here.
Time Shelter can expect international recognition and a significant uplift in global sales. Last year’s winner, Tomb of Sand, written by Geetanjali Shree and translated by Daisy Rockwell, was the first novel translated from any South Asian language to be recognised by the International Booker Prize. The UK edition initially sold 473 copies in the first six months after publication, which increased to over 5,000 copies between the longlist announcement in February and the end of May 2022. In the nine months since its win it has sold a further 25,000 copies making it the publisher, Tilted Axis’s, biggest seller. Rights have been sold in a dozen languages and a US edition was recently published by HarperVia.
The International Booker Prize has teamed up with the global streaming service MUBI, bookseller Foyles and London’s The Garden Cinema in a new collaboration. MUBI, the global streaming service, production company and film distributor dedicated to elevating great cinema, has curated a selection of six films from around the world to complement each International Booker Prize 2023 shortlisted book. The curated films reflect the themes or tone of the relevant book and have been approved by each author. Explore the six films here.
On May 26, The Garden Cinema, a new independent cinema in the heart of London, will host a special live event: an intimate Q&A featuring Georgi Gospodinov and Angela Rodel, hosted by writer and editor Sarah Shaffi. The Q&A will be followed by a screening of One Fine Morning, directed by Mia Hansen-Løve (France, Germany, 2022), which MUBI has paired with Time Shelter. Tickets are available here.
The Booker Prize Foundation has for the second year commissioned Sharon Horgan’s production company Mermade to produce a series of short films featuring six of the UK and Ireland’s best known actors reading extracts from the books on the International Booker Prize 2023 shortlist.
The new films, which were shown at the winner ceremony, have been viewed online over 3 million times, and can be watched here, are directed by Hannah Berry George. A former journalist and now award-winning director, Berry George’s work has featured on Nowness, the Evening Standard, and Funny or Die, and has been screened by the BFI and other international festivals.
The extract from Time Shelter is read by Toby Stephens, one of the UK’s best-known television, film and stage actors, whose extensive career has seen him play the Greek god Poseidon, Jane Eyre’s Mr Rochester, Tony Blair, Lord Snowdon, Kim Philby, and James Bond villain Gustav Graves in Die Another Day. In recent years he has starred in the TV series Black Sails (Starz), Alex Rider (Amazon Prime) and Lost in Space (Netflix).
The prize’s annual visit to the festival festival occurs at 4.00pm on Saturday May 27, when International Booker Prize judge and novelist Tan Twan Eng and Booker Prize Foundation Chief Executive Gaby Wood will be in conversation with Georgi Gospodinov and Angela Rodel.