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Georgi Gospodinov and Angela Rodel win International Booker Prize for 'Time Shelter'

Translator Angela Rodel, left, and author Georgi Gospodinov have won the 2023 International Booker Prize for <em>Time Shelter.</em> They are pictured above in London on May 23, 2023.
David Parry
The Booker Prizes
Translator Angela Rodel, left, and author Georgi Gospodinov have won the 2023 International Booker Prize for Time Shelter. They are pictured above in London on May 23, 2023.

This year's winner of the The International Booker Prize is a unique spin on time travel. The novel Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov, with a translation by Angela Rodel, imagines the 'first clinic of the past,' in which Alzheimer's patients can visit different time periods of their lives on different floors.

"One day, when this business really takes off," therapist Gaustine tells the narrator, a writer, "we'll create these clinics or sanatoriums in various countries. The past is also a local thing. There'll be houses from various years everywhere, little neighborhoods, one day we'll even have small cities, maybe even a whole country. For patients with failing memories, Alzheimer's, dementia, whatever you want to call it. For all of those who already are living solely in the present of their past."

In its review of Time Shelter, The Guardian wrote, "From communism to the Brexit referendum and conflict in Europe, this funny yet frightening Bulgarian novel explores the weaponisation of nostalgia."

Gospodinov's novel was chosen from a shortlist of six books from around the world.

"Intricately crafted, and eloquently translated by Angela Rodel," wrote the International Booker Prize jury, "Time Shelter cements Georgi Gospodinov's reputation as one of the indispensable writers of our times, and a major voice in international literature."

/ W.W. Norton & Company
W.W. Norton & Company

Unlike the original Booker Prize which rewards novels written in English, the International Booker Prize honors fiction translated into English from around the world. This is the first time a Bulgarian novel has won.

Gospodinov and translator Angela Rodel will share the prize money of roughly $62,ooo equally. In addition, the shortlisted authors and translators each receive approximately $3,000.

Time Shelter is Gospodinov's third novel to be published in English. A poet and playwright, he is the most translated writer from Bulgaria to emerge since the fall of communism.

Literary translator Angela Rodel is a Minnesota native who lives in Bulgaria. In addition to Time Shelter, she translated Gospodinov's novel The Physics of Sorrow, as well as a short story collection by Bulgarian writer Georgi Tenev.

In a statement, Gospodinov said, "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."

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Elizabeth Blair
Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.