Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov (Translated from Bulgarian by Angela Rodel) - review by Madoc Cairns

Madoc Cairns

4004 & All That

Time Shelter


Weidenfeld & Nicolson 304pp £16.99

We begin with God’s creation of the universe, and things go downhill from there. Bishop James Ussher’s infamously precise dating of the event – 6pm on Saturday 22 October 4004 BC – was lauded by his contemporaries and is ridiculed by us. Georgi Gospodinov’s new novel, Time Shelter, opens with Ussher’s calculation. It soon becomes obvious why. The bishop’s chronology represents, for Gospodinov, an objective, universally accessible version of history that is, at least in theory, recoverable. In our own, more secular age, Ussher’s confidence can be admired, even if his calculation won’t win widespread acceptance. We live, as one character observes, a second at a time; the rest is remembrance, a process that degrades as much as it restores. Most of human life is memory. And memory is kitsch.

Memory and kitsch – and their painful congruence in post-Soviet Europe – will be familiar themes to readers of Gospodinov’s last book, The Physics of Sorrow. The novels share allusive, discontinuous narratives, an appetite for switching genres, an alertness to the power and the fragility of authorship and a

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