A ‘clinic for the past’ run by an enigmatic therapist offers a promising treatment for Alzheimer’s sufferers: each floor reproduces a decade in minute detail, transporting patients back in time to a familiar, safer, happier moment.

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 within the clinic become more convincing, an increasing number of healthy people seek refuge there, hoping to escape the horrors of modern life - a development that results in an unexpected conundrum when the past begins to invade the present. Soon, entire countries want to emulate the idea, with referendums taking place to decide which particular version of the past will shape each nation’s future.

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. It is the first book from Bulgaria to be nominated for the International Booker Prize.

The International Booker Prize 2023
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Weidenfeld & Nicolson
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Georgi Gospodinov

Georgi Gospodinov

About the Author

Winner of the International Booker Prize 2023, Georgi Gospodinov was born in Yambol, Bulgaria, and his works have been translated to acclaim in 25 languages
More about Georgi Gospodinov
Angela Rodel

Angela Rodel

About the Translator

Winner of the International Booker Prize 2023, Angela Rodel is a literary translator, actor and musician who lives and works in Bulgaria
More about Angela Rodel

More about the author and translator

Georgi Gospodinov is Bulgaria’s best-known contemporary writer, whose work includes poetry, plays, essays and graphic novels. He has been shortlisted for more than a dozen international fiction prizes - including the PEN Literary Award for Translation, the Premio Gregor von Rezzori, the Bruecke Berlin Preis, and the Haus der Kulturen der Welt Literaturpreis. He won the 2016 Jan Michalski Prize for Literature, the 2019 Angelus Literature Central Europe Prize and the 2021 Premio Strega Europe, among others.  

Time Shelter is his third novel to be published in English. The Italian edition of the book won the prestigious Premio Strega Europeo 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 animated film that was nominated for an Oscar in 2017.

Angela Rodel, originally from Minnesota, USA, lives and works in Bulgaria. She holds degrees from Yale and UCLA, and has received NEA and PEN translation grants. Her translation of Georgi Gospodinov’s The Physics of Sorrow won the 2016 AATSEEL Prize for Literary Translation. In 2014, she was awarded Bulgarian citizenship for her translation work and contribution to Bulgarian culture. 

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.

As well as working as a literary translator – and teaching literary translation in Bulgaria – she has also been a singer in a Bulgarian folk band, acted in a Bulgarian crime drama, and starred in a film, Kozelat, in which she rides a goat.

Angela Rodel, translator, and author Georgi Gospodinov, shortlisted for Time Shelter, International Booker Prize 2023

It compels us to question our concepts of identity: not just national, individual, societal, but also historical and temporal

— The International Booker Prize 2023 panel of judges on 'Time Shelter'

What the International Booker Prize judges said

‘An inventive, subversive and morbidly humorous novel about national identities and the seductive dangers of memory and nostalgia. 

‘Part of a tradition of East Central Europe that includes Milan Kundera, Dubravka Ugrešić and Danilo Kiš, it’s a fresh staging of old questions: the danger of selective memory, the inheritance of trauma, and how nostalgia can take a grip on society and become a comfort blanket – or a cancer. 

‘It compels us to question our concepts of identity: not just national, individual, societal, but also historical and temporal. How much do we reshape the past to suit our present and our future? In addition to the borders dividing countries, we see that time and memory are also different forms of borders. How do individuals, nations, even continents, decide on what to remember, and what to forget?  The novel also makes us contemplate the very concept of Time itself in a different way. Nostalgia is more than what it used to be.’

Chair of judges Leïla Slimani with winners Georgi Gospodinov and Angela Rodel

Read more about Time Shelter

Time Shelter by numbers: the key dates


1939: The year which, according to the novel’s narrator, on September 1, saw ‘the end of human time’


1968: The year to which Georgi Gospodinov would return if he could - also the year of his birth


1996: The year Angela Rodel first came to Bulgaria to study language and folk music at Sofia University


1999: The year Gospodinov published his experimental debut, Natural Novel, which has now been translated into over 20 languages


2009: The year Angela Rodel starred in a Bulgarian film, Kozelat, in which she is seen riding a goat


2017: The year that Blind Vaysha, a short animated film based on Gospodinov’s short story, was nominated for an Oscar


2016: The year Georgi Gospodinov felt something had shifted in the fabric of time, triggering him to write Time Shelter


2029: The year in which the novel ends, with a deadly re-enactment of the outbreak of the Second World War