Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov and translator Angela Rodel were named winners of the International Booker Prize on Tuesday, May 22, with the novel Time Shelter – a first for a book in Bulgarian.
The prestigious award recognizes works of fiction from around the world that have been translated into English and the £50,000 ($62,000) prize is split equally between the author and the translator.
The winning novel focuses on a “clinic for the past” that offers experimental Alzheimer’s treatment. To trigger patients’ memories, it recreates the atmosphere of past decades down to the smallest detail. But with time healthy people start coming to the clinic, seeking an escape from the horrors of modern life.
“It is a novel that invites reflection and vigilance as much as it moves us, because the language – sensitive and precise – manages to capture, in a Proustian vein, the extreme fragility of the past,” Franco-Moroccan writer and judges panel chair Leila Slimani said.
Translated into 25 languages
Born in 1968, novelist and poet Gospodinov is the most internationally acclaimed modern Bulgarian author. His works are translated into 25 languages. Speaking about the book’s nomination, Gospodinov said “This encourages writers not only from my country but also from the Balkans, who often feel themselves outside the sphere of English-speaking attention”.
Rodel is originally from the US state of Minnesota but lives and works in Bulgaria. Her poetry and prose translations have been published across literary magazines and anthologies. In 2014, she was granted Bulgarian citizenship for her work and contribution to Bulgarian culture.
“We need not only to recognize the translators, but also put them on an equal footing with the authors,” Rodel told journalists. “It was really trying to decide with Georgi how we were going to not just translate the text but translate the atmosphere, the context… all of those socialist sort of ghosts that were haunting the text itself.”
Gospodinov agreed that “It was not easy at all to translate this kind of book, because the book is dealing with different decades in the 20th century and with different languages that we have in this decade.”
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Last year the International Booker Prize was awarded to the Hindi novel Tomb of Sand by Indian author Geetanjali Shree, and translated by Daisy Rockwell.