Time Shelter

Time Shelter (novel)
Janet 45, 2020, 370 pages

Gaustine is a peculiar and peripatetic personage, who roams across time. The narrator meets him for the first time in the early 1990s. At that time, Gaustine is an antiquarian who has chosen to live in the 1930s – day by day he reads the corresponding issue of a newspaper from the year he is in, cut off from contemporary life around him. Finally, on the eve of World War II, September 1st of 1939 (according to his own chronology), he sends a letter to the narrator, saying that the situation has become unbearable, war is inevitable, the Nazis are running amuck, and he has no choice but to take a ship to America.

The narrator finds him later: Gaustine has opened his first independent “clinic for the past” in Zurich. This is part of a new and ever more popular therapy for people suffering from Alzheimer’s. Each floor of the clinic reproduces a decade in detail: the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, the 80s… in synch with the patients’ fading internal time. The victims lose their sense of the future and the present, but nature has been merciful - in the end allows them to play just a bit longer in their childhood bedrooms. Gaustine’s rooms do just that – they unlock memories by recreating the world of yesterday. They create a time that is synchronous with the internal time inhabited by those suffering from memory loss.

This is a novel/investigation into how to live with a critical deficit of future, which weaves together irony, nostalgia, and satire, switching between various narrative levels. A novel about the discreet monster of the past that waits for us tomorrow.

Here are some excerpts of the first reactions to the novel by critics and fellow writers:

Gospodinov is one of the leading writers in Europe; every book is an event. I can't wait to read this one.

Garth Greenwell

A great European novel. Not just because Europe is a main character in it...

Prof. Amelia Licheva, Vypreki

Here some of the chapters remind us of Goya’s Caprichos, of that sombre, satyrical engraving cut, of the sleep of reason that produces monsters…

Nadezhda Radulova, Booklover

A novel by Georgi Gospodinov is a rare event but always with an effect that lasts for years bringing new waves of readers in different countries… Gospodinov covers all topics that he has delved into before but now with more gloom and humor at the same time, with a deeper insight into the transition from youth to old age and into our contestable concepts of normality.

Svetoslav Todorov, Capital

This novel has to be read and reread. It is both an absorbing and painful farewell to love of the past – a farewell by an author who has dedicated a lot to this love. In Time Shelter, from the waters of the past, emerges the most skillful diver of our contemporary literature.

Ivan Landzhev, Slaveykov Square

In Time Shelter, Gospodinov maps the continent of the past… The months after the book was finished (“in the leap February 2020”) turned large parts of this fiction into brutal ongoing reality.

Prof. Georgi Kapriev, Portal Kultura