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!!

Mission London by Alek Popov

missioon London Cover Alek Popov

Mission London by Alek Popov

Bulgarian Fiction

Original title –  Мисия Лондон

Translators – Daniella and Charles Gill de Mayol de Lupe

Source – Review copy

Why, why, why? Because it’s all logic and reason now! Science, progress, chip-chip… Laws of hydraulics, laws of social dynamics, laws of this, that and the other… No place for three legged Cyclops in the South Seas… no place for cucumber trees and oceans of vine… no place for me!

From Quote NET baron Munchausen

Susan at Istros books is doing a great job bring wonderful new books from the Balkans and surrounding regions ,here she has brought us Alek Popov a rising star of Bulgarian fiction ,Alek Popov he got a degree in Bulrgrian Philology from Sofia university , he has worked as an editor ,also as cultural attaché to the Bulgarian embassy in London for a time .He has written 11 novels and was elected to the Bulgarian academy in 2012 for creative arts .Mission London is his first novel to be translated to English and is also a successful film .

“Your Excellency !” Robert Ziebling exclaimed , from the very threshold of this office .”I cannot begin to express how delighted I was to receive this invitation ”

The managing director of famous connections seized the Ambassador’s hands and proceeded to shake it fiercely .

The dodgy Pr man meets Varadin

So Mission London follows the new Ambassador at the Bulgarian embassy , this guy  Varadin has been thrust from nowhere really to this prestigious job as a stepping stone for a bigger political career   .Now the problem is he has some hard tasks to try to do for his bosses back home ,The wife of the current prime minister wants to meet the queen for a banquet .This leads him to a dodgy pr firm ,he meets a Princess Diana double  Katya ,whom he employs first as a cleaner then when he discovers she is the Diana double things take quite a strange twist for her and Varadin .Then there is the hunt for food for the meal ,the chef he wants swans but through a Russian Mafia connection ends up with ducks stolen from the royal park that the police can track .Add to this the keeper of the ducks ,Russian Mafia bosses and a fake queen .A story that will have you laughing and cringing at Varadin’s  life in London .

Dale pulled out his mobile and called Ray Solo head of security

“Ray ” he said weakly ,”I’ve cause to believe something terrible has happened …”

“Whats wrong ?” Ray’s voice sound stressed .

“My ducks have disappeared ” sobbed Dale “My little duclings !”

The ducks are stolen from the Royal Richmond Pond to go in the ovens at the Embassy .

Now I loved this one it was a book I started put to one side and then Last weekend decide to start again and read it in a couple of sittings especially after watching the trailer for the film .As you see in the trailer the book is rather like A Bulgarian take on a guy richie film ,multiple plot-lines ,bending the real world just enough that it is absurd but believable .It also is a remind of the Humour in Bulgarian lit  ,I have come across before in the other book from Bulgaria I have reviewed here circus Bulgaria by Deyan Enev , a dark mix of satire and black humour that is similar in this book .If you like the greats of British Political satire television you will love this book it is one of those books that every turn sees another disaster around the corner another near miss  .Another gem from Istros books .here is the trailer for the film .

Have you a favourite Bulgarian read ?

Lion for sale ?

TITLE – Circus Bulgaria by Deyan Enev


Deyan Enev is one of a new wave of Bulgarian writers to emerge ,HE was born in Sofia ,married and has had a number of interesting jobs painter ,night nurse ,school teacher and Journalist .He has won Bulgaria’s premier literary prize .I first heard him Talk about Circus Bulgaria on the world service radio and was grab by the man and his book so ask for a review copy .The book centres mainly on people living in and around Bulgaria’s capital Sofia .The book is what may be called a collection of flash fiction pieces ranging from a couple of pages to some over ten pages .as you jump in and out of these lives you find a group of people struggling in the hard times post communism in .they range from gypsy to circus people to little boys .we meet a lion tamer forced to sell his lion to some villains ,A fighter turned hit man .and a personal favourite that made me laugh for a number of days after I read the book ,a man finds a boy wander in the grass in  the night ,ask him what he is doing hunting hedgehogs a discussion follows on the reason for hunting hedgehogs very surreal and funny .

Hi, Krum said , and managed to light a cigarette .he drew on it and tried to look casual .

hi ,the boy said .can you keep quiet ,please ?

why ? krum had already forgotten about being casual .

I ‘m hunting for hedgehogs the boy explained .on a full moon ,there are always lots of hedgehogs .I had a hedgehog at home once .He was character .he kept poking his snout in the kitchen .but you know ,it’s a lie what they say about hedgehogs that they can dance to music .

Krum finds a boy hunting hedgehogs from ,from the life of hedgehogs

The book remind me in parts of Raymond Carver’s short stories ,the characters are similar they like a drink like many of Carvers characters and also are on the fringes of society like carvers tended to be ,there is also a wonderfully surreal edge to some of them bizarre accounts and weird people .It conjures up a melting pot of a city in Sofia .If this is the first of a wave of Bulgarian writing I look forward to the others ,Deyan Enev is a fresh new voice to these shores and a welcome one ,this has to be one of the most stunning debuts I ve ever read .The book is translated by Kapka Kassbova.


 Well I ve found it hard to find an image to Fit this book but this sentence may sum it up .If Robert Altman’s short cuts had been moved to eastern Europe and scripted by the team behind League of gentlemen !

June 2023


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