Brexit was my big inspiration, says Georgi Gospodinov, winner of the International Booker Prize
Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov, who won the International Booker Prize yesterday, has told The Londoner that Brexit was a “big influence” on his winning book Time Shelter.
At a ceremony in the Sky Garden last night, Gospodinov said that “here in the UK there are many layers of memory”. His book muses on Europe’s uneasy relationship with the past: in it, a therapist treats Alzheimer’s patients by recreating the periods when they felt most content.
Gospodinov told us he was inspired by Brexit and the election of Trump in 2016, which he saw as rooted in an obsession with history, a “kind of a glitch in time”. “I’m very glad that my book has had success here... because the book was written about this place” he said. “Here in the UK... there’s a very deep relationship to the past.”
Gospodinov said that many things in modern Europe, including the war in Ukraine, can be explained by a struggle to let go history. “I think the problem is that politicians, especially populists, are trying to present the future as a new version of the past” he said. “So the war that Russia is waging now in Ukraine is Putin’s obsession with the past, with the Second World War.”
The author thinks we’re living in a period of with a “deficit of future”, and wants to tackle that, creating just “a few months” where we look forwards. “The question now is how to free ourselves from the vampire of the past” he said. “The future has the face of our children. That’s the future I’m fighting for.” He went on: “Heraclitus says that we can’t step in the same river twice, but we’re constantly trying to. We can escape the obsession with the past by turning towards memory: we need another kind of memory, that’s full of human stories.”
Despite Brexit, Gospodinov thinks the UK is still part of the nearby continent. “It’s very strange, because you have John Donne, who says ‘no man is an island’” he said. “But I think, it’s Europe. I feel here like a European, in a European country.” He joked that he was glad to be in London but passport control can be hard to navigate.