Photo: D. Stoilova
GEORGI GOSPODINOV (b. 1968) made his literary debut in the 1990s with the poetry collections “Lapidarium”, which won the 1992 National Prize for Best Literary Debut “Yuzhna Prolet”, and “The Cherry Tree of a Nation” (1996), which has gone through several editions. He is also the author of the books of poetry “Letters to Gaustin”, the anthological “Ballads and Maladies”, “Where We Are Not” (2016), which has received the Bulgarian National Award “Peroto” (The Quill). His latest novel, “Time Shelter” (2020), has received the Bulgarian Novel of the Year Award by “13 Centuries Bulgaria” Foundation in 2021. His works have appeared in many international anthologies and have been translated into tens of languages, with only his “Natural Novel” having been published in over 20 languages. His second novel, “The Physics of Sorrow,” was awarded the 2016 Jan Michalski Prize for Literature in Switzerland and was the finalist for several European and US awards, including the American PEN Award for Best Translation, the Italian literary award for literature “Premio Strega Europeo”, and the German award for literature “Haus der Kulturen der Welt”. The novel has been met with critical acclaim in periodicals such as The New Yorker, Die Zeit, Liberation, etc. In 2015, Georgi Gospodinov and his daughter, Raya, co-authored the illustrated children’s book “Weddings of Animals and Things”. The animated short film “Blind Vaysha” (dir. Theodore Ushev), which was nominated for the 2017 Academy Awards, was based on a story of the same name included in Gospodinov’s first short story collection “And Other Stories” (2001).
to dream of the woman
who lies next to you.
Translated by W.N. Herbert, Andy Croft,
Mark Robinson, Linda France
How would you describe the relationship between literature and the city?
Some time ago, I had this idea for “Narrate the City”, then “Hear the City”, and so on. I do believe that the city is a story in itself and that we are, too, walking stories on its streets. I love wandering around the city by myself and passing time on park benches; reflecting on the city’s streets, its smells and words accidentally overheard – the city is made up of such fleeting things, and literature, too, by the way.
What do you think would be the best setting for a poetry reading in the city?
In the open air, in some back yard, if there are any left.
Which letter is the scariest?
Perhaps “Ж” (Bulgarian pronunciation “zh”). It stands like bent bars; it looks like an animal that extends its three stings – some kind of arthropod, a resilient one. At the same time, it’s a beautiful letter. Important things begin with it, such as “живот” (zhivot – life) и “жена” (zhena – woman). It has appeared at least seven times thus far.
What particular ending of a poem is your favourite?
“Ed è subito sera” by Salvatore Quasimodo.
Translated by Krassimira Dzhisova