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Georgi Gospodinov, Harriman Writer in Residence
September 12, 2022

Georgi Gospodinov is unique in many ways. I’ve been reading him since the beginning and I know that no one can combine an intriguing concept, wonderful imagination, and perfect writing technique like he can.—Olga Tokarczuk

The Harriman Institute takes great pleasure in welcoming Bulgarian writer, poet, and playwright Georgi Gospodinov to Columbia this fall. The New Yorker’s Garth Greenwell has described him as a “trickster at heart, and often very funny,” while Dave Eggers has called him “one of Europe’s most fascinating and irreplaceable novelists.” Gospodinov’s second novel, The Physics of Sorrow (Open Letter, 2011), reaffirmed Gospodinov’s place as one of Europe’s most inventive and daring writers. The book garnered Gospodinov the Angelus Central European Literature Award and the Jan Michalski Prize for Literature, and was a finalist for prizes in Italy and Germany. Moreover, the translation by Angela Rodel was shortlisted for the PEN Translation Prize.

The English translation of Time Shelter, Gospodinov’s third novel, was published earlier this year to great critical acclaim.  “From communism to the Brexit referendum and conflict in Europe, this funny yet frightening Bulgarian novel explores the weaponization of nostalgia,” wrote The Guardian’s reviewer Patrick McGuinness, and The Times called the book “a genrebusting novel of ideas.” Declared the Novel of the Year in Bulgaria, Time Shelter received Italy’s most prestigious literary honor, Premio Strega Europeo, the first time the prize was awarded to an Eastern European writer.

Public appearances during his residency include events at the New York Public Library (September 7), where Gospodinov was a Cullman Center Fellow in 2017-18, and the Harriman Institute on September 28. Both events will feature the writer in conversation with Harriman Director Valentina Izmirlieva.

In addition, Mr. Gospodinov will teach a 4-week graduate seminar on “Reading Childhood, Writing Childhood: The East European Case” (GR6102). The course focuses on representations of childhood in literature and everyday culture during the period of late socialism in Bulgaria and East Central Europe. Key texts include works by contemporary authors Olga Tokarczuk, Dubravka Ugresic, and Mircea Cartarescu, as well as classic works of childhood memoirs, such as Marcel Proust, Walther Benjamin’s My Berlin Childhood, Anne Frank’s Diary, and Elias Canetti’s The Tongue Set Free. Gospodinov will draw on his own experience as a fiction writer as well as scholar in the fields of literary studies, memory of the recent past, and oral history.

Read Gospodinov’s reflections on Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, “Fragments about the War,” published online as a preview to the Fall 2022 issue of Harriman Magazine.

Photo by Phelia Baruh