Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov

Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov

Bulgarian Fiction

Original title – Времеубежище,

Translator – Angela Rodel

Source – Personal copy

I am still in Eastern Europe. I have moved from Hungary to one of the leaders of Bulgarian writing, and his latest book to be translated into English is Time shelter. Georgi Gospodinov had several books already translated into English, one from Dalkey, another from a university press and one by Open Letter, which I do have somewhere to read. He has won several book prizes and has been on the shortlist of prizes like the Italian Stega prize. He was also a writer in Residence in Zurich a fact he mentions in the afterword of this book.

The next day I was at Heliosstrasse first thing in the morning, Mr. S. had given me the address. I found the apricot-colored building on the western shore of the lake, separated from the other houses on the hill. It was massive yet light at the same time, four stories with a fifth attic floor, a large shared terrace on the second level, and smaller balconies on the other floors. All the windows looked to the southwest, which made the afternoons endless, and the day’s final bluish glimmers nested in them until the very last moment, while the light blue wooden shutters contrasted softly with the pale apricot of the facade.

There is some wonderfully descriptive passages in the book

Like many books from Eastern Europe, it is a retrospective of those communist years, but that also makes it a prism of the present. The framing device for all this is the activity of an assistant for a Therapist called Gaustin. He has a radical treatment that involves rebuilding exact replicas of people’s past for when they have dementia. It is the assistant’s job to go out. He finds the past in the present and rebuilds the individual’s past. As he collects those small trinkets we remember from the red typewriter ( a memory I saw and mentioned how I’d loved the same typewriter back in the day) But is the problem is the past when for you, the past is as a  Holocaust survivor worth reliving ? His clinic grows, and as it does Gaustine’s ideas are more grandiose. They start to think of making countries into individual decades. This would be when that country had a particular peak or significant period of history. The problem is living in the past and what that effect has is it dangerous to dwell on or relive those moments. As the clinic has grown more people, haven’t dementia but just want to grasp their own past.

All elections up until this point had been about the future. This would be different.




Those were the headlines in European newspapers. If nothing else, Europe was good at utopias. Yes, the Continent had been mined with a past that divided it, two world wars, hundreds of oth ers, Balkan Wars, Thirty-Year Wars, Hundred-Year Wars… But there were also enough memories of alliances, of living as neighbors, memories of empires that gathered together supposedly ungatherable groups for centuries on end. People didn’t stop to think tha in and of itself, the nation was a bawling historicalinfant masquerading as a biblical patriarch.

Maybe the past is a recurring events and

This book looks at those post-war years but also the present. It is an attack on nostalgia why it can be dangerous. In a way, why do we want to live in the past? Is it healthy at times, yes? But for others, it is a danger to relive those years. This is the book for me it has a bit of Sebald that memorialises the past of objects, especially in a book like the rings of Saturn? Then he has a chunk of Nadas as a writer I think how Wonderfully and darkly, at times, he captures his own past and Hungarian history and the brutal nature of that past. Then I was reminded of Topol’s book Devil’s workshop, which is a book that tackles how we deal with or sell the past this case, how we use the Naszi death camps. It isn’t as entertaining park as imagined in that book. It deals with how we use the past in a way as entertainment or history or is it a warning ?. This book’s title in Bulgarian is more of a term that suggests hiding in time like a bomb shelter. Have seen since the fall of communism, some countries and people have had a sort of nostalgic view of the past and the dangers of viewing it with rose colour spectacles. There have been several films around this nostalgia. Have you read any of his books or any other Bulgarian fiction?

Winston’s score – +A great book and a writer I will be watching for his next book!!

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Stu’s February Journey | Winstonsdad's Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

February 2023


%d bloggers like this: