Bulgarian writer who predicted the war in Ukraine.

Artexplainer in stories
Danyyl Lekhovitser
May 31, 2023
It’s a little exaggeration to say that Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov predicted Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The answer to how he did it and why it’s an exaggeration is found in his novel Time Shelter.

The relevance of the novel's ideas won him the Booker Prize, one of the most famous literary awards, last week.
Photo: Leonardo Cendamo / Getty Images
The novel's protagonist, Gaustin, a Bulgarian immigrant ironed down by communism and repression, founds a hospital for people with Alzheimer's disease. The design of each floor of the facility simulates a particular decade: the hippie style of the 1970s (not the 1960s, because fashion is always late in the socialist bloc) or the Balkan modernism of the 1940s.
Photo: Ted West / Central Press / Getty Images
Patients who, because of Alzheimer's, think of themselves as young children or young men live in the scenery of the past happy years. The success of the clinic is so impressive that similar memory bunkers are opened all over Europe. Soon the idea is hijacked by politicians, and entire countries begin to live in the past.
Photo: John Moeses Bauan / Unsplash
A Guardian reviewer writes that Gospodinov skillfully describes the militarization of history by authoritarian regimes that see the future in the past and impose this strategy on their neighbors. According to the critic, Gospodinov's ideas also provide answers to the reasons for Russia's archaic invasion of Ukraine.
Photo: Dima Korotayev / Epsilon/Getty Images
In the USSR, there was a joke that "the future of the Union is its constantly changing past." Gospodinov turns this fable into an absurdist philosophical novel.
Photo: DIMITAR DILKOFF / AFP via Getty Images
He writes about post-Soviet countries that do not have a plan for the future, the global crisis of futuristic narratives in general, the "end of history" of philosopher Francis Fukuyama, and hauntology, a discipline that studies why cultural and political features of past eras appear like ghosts in the present. And finally, why modernity does not resemble modernity at all.
One could call Gospodinov's ideas and concepts high concepts or highbrow, as they are called when referring to complex and intellectual topics. However, the peculiarity of the Bulgarian's prose is its humor and simplicity of language (which does not prevent him from talking about complex things through the prism of a humorous fable).
Photo: Wikipedia
One of the literary critics called Gospodinov a humorist of despair, which creates a bridge between the specifics of his Balkan prose and the Ukrainian reader (and in general, all those who were born in post-communist countries and who still find it difficult to call themselves part of the renewed Europe).
Photo: Stefan Spassov / Unsplash
Another extremely well-received novel by Gospodinov, The Physics of Sadness (also watch the cartoon with the same name), is a family saga set in Eastern Europe, where there is room for several generations, several historical traumas (spiced with humor), and one minotaur.
Video: NFB / YouTube
Think less about the past and more about the future, and become a Zaborona subscriber 📚