Georgi Gospodinov becomes first Bulgarian writer to win International Booker Prize

Georgi Gospodinov wins the International Booker Prize
Georgi Gospodinov wins the International Booker Prize Copyright Getty Images
Copyright Getty Images
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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Georgi Gospodinov is the first Bulgarian to win the prestigious award for his novel 'Time Shelter', beating out five other writers on the shortlist.


Georgi Gospodinov has made history with his book ‘Time Shelter’, which becomes the first ever book translated from Bulgarian to win the International Booker Prize.

Translated by Angela Rodel, the novel beat 5 other works on the shortlist in the completion led by a panel of judges which boasted prize-winning French-Moroccan novelist, Leïla Slimani at the helm.

Gospodinov and Rodel were given the honour at a glitzy ceremony at London’s Sky Garden on Tuesday night (23 May).

The book is Gospodinov’s fourth to be translated into English and focuses on an Alzheimer’s treatment centre - a time warp environment - which comes to serve as a refuge for healthy people tired of modern life.

When initially published in Bulgaria in 2020, ‘Time Shelter’ topped the book charts, winning the Strega European prize.

Describing the novel, Slimani called it, “a brilliant novel full of irony and melancholy”, adding, “It is a very profound work that deals with a contemporary question and also a philosophical question: what happens to us when our memories disappear?”

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Georgi Gospodinov celebrates his win with translator Angela RodelGetty Images

Slimani headed up the panel of judges and was joined by Ukrainian Uilleam Blacker, one of Britain’s leading literary translators, Booker-shortlisted novelist Tan Twan Eng, New Yorker staff writer Parul Sehgal and the Financial Times’ literary editor Frederick Studemann.

The shortlist featured works from six countries and four continents and included a swan song from 86-year-old French author Maryse Condé.

The Prize is the United Kingdom’s most prestigious award for translated fiction published in the UK or Ireland, with a prize of £50,000 (about €57,500) split equally between the book’s author and translator. Previous winners have included literary heavyweights Han Kang and Olga Tokarczuk.

Here’s a rundown of the winner and the other 5 works which were whittled down from the long list, but narrowly missed out on the top prize.

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The International Booker Prize nominees pose together pre-ceremonyGetty Images

Mexican Guadalupe Nettel’s ‘Still Born’ is billed as a gripping and insightful novel, the writer’s fourth, which explores one of life’s most consequential decisions – whether or not to have children. It was translated by UK-based Rosalind Harvey.

‘Standing Heavy’ by Ivorian author and journalist GauZ’ gives a unique insight into everything that passes under a security guard's gaze, which also serves as a witty deconstruction of colonial legacies and capitalist consumption. The book was translated by Frank Wynne, an award-winning Irish writer and translator from French and Spanish.

‘The Gospel According to the New World’, by Maryse Condé, focuses on the tale of a miracle baby, rumoured to be the child of God. The award-winning Caribbean’s novel was translated by her husband, Richard Philcox.

‘Whale’ by South Korean Cheon Myeong-kwan explores the Asian country’s rapid transition from pre-modern to post-modern society and the effects of the change. The novel was translated by Chi-Young Kim, who’s previously won the Man Asian Literary Prize for her work.

‘Boulder’, written by Catalan Eva Baltasar, explores the relationship of two women and cements the author as an eminent chronicler of queer voices navigating a hostile world. The work was translated by Julia Sanches.

Look out for Euronews Culture’s interview with Georgi Gospodinov - coming soon.

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