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Bulgarian Gosbudinov wins International Booker Prize for his novel “Time Shelter”

Bulgarian writer Georgi Gosbudinov and translator Angela Rudel won the International Booker Prize on Tuesday for “Time Shelter,” a darkly comic novel about the dangerous allure of nostalgia.

The book beat out five other finalists for the award, which recognizes works of fiction translated into English from around the world.

The financial prize of 50,000 pounds ($62,000) is divided between the author and the translator.

The novel imagines a clinic recreating the past, with each floor of the clinic reproducing a different contract, intended to help people with dementia unlock their memories, and quickly becomes a magnet for people yearning to escape the modern world.

Gospodinov, 55, said he began writing his book about “weaponizing nostalgia” in 2016, the year Donald Trump was elected and the UK’s Brexit referendum took place.

It was a time, he said, when “anxiety was in the air”.

“I wanted to write a novel about the beast of the past,” he added, “because you can see at this time … that populist politics, in fact, they paid us the past blank check.”

French novelist Leila Slimani, who chaired the jury, said it was “a wonderful novel full of irony and melancholy”.

“It is a very profound work that deals with a contemporary question as well as a philosophical question: What happens to us when our memories are gone?” she said.

But it is also a great novel about Europe, a continent in need of a future, where the past is reinvented and where nostalgia can be poison.

Gosbudinov is one of the most translated authors in Bulgaria. His book “The Shelter of Time” also won the European-Italian Striga Prize for Literature Translated into Italian.

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The International Booker Prize is awarded each year for a translated work of fiction published in the United Kingdom or Ireland.

The prize was created to promote the reality of fiction written in languages ​​other than English – which accounts for only a small share of books published in Britain – and to give recognition to the work of literary translators.

Last year’s winners were Indian writer Gitanjali Shri and American translator Daisy Rockwell for The Tomb of the Sands.

Time Refuge translator Rudel said she was grateful for the award and refuses to believe that “if you’re a good translator, maybe you shouldn’t even get noticed”.

She added “This is a creative process and a specific collaborative artwork that we are creating with our authors. I am endlessly grateful to Booker for bringing that to the fore at this award.”