Harsimran Kaur ON  July 03, 2023, IN BOOK REVIEW, TIME SHELTER BY GEORGI GOSPODINOV-FICTION

Rating: 5/5

WINNER OF THE INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE 2023

The ‘Past’ walks in! a quiescent fear engulfs me trying to recollect the remnants of the forgotten pilferage. The putrescent mind is of no gain. Still, I sneak through the po-faced sight; maybe an approval to consider it mine will wash off the delinquent flow of tethered discriminations. I would pause here! You got me wrong; I wish I could explain well. OK! Let me be clearer—yes! My mind is blank, a bit of fangled and feels challenged by the ‘present’ paterfamilias obscuring the ‘past’ as if it never existed.

I am a bit challenged by my past, a kind of Paleolithic flurrying; a stone cutter—it could be me—carving shades of the ‘present’; edgy and prickly, a rough terrain voluminously sliding to nowhere and the corrugated spine burdened by gathering what is lost. The forlorn past looks at the ‘Sun’, ‘Your light scares me! Doesn’t it intimidate you? The darkness will eventually blanket it and you would no longer be the ‘Sun’.

Let’s talk about ‘Gaustine’ from the book ‘Time Shelter’.He shares an intense relationship with the ‘past’peripatetics.  The Spartan, yet adroit and percipient Gaustine is like a heated filament prospering energies to open the ‘past’ to recherché memories. And now you will ask me who is ‘I’? They are the courageous lot trapped in the dystopic panjandrum of ‘wish the past was more benevolent; remembering it seems an arduous task’. Let’s give ‘I” a name too—Mr. Alzheimer is no ‘de-trop’. It has an egomaniacal connection with the past and its prodigal memories; lifting its puritanical sword incase the representation of mind falls short of neurons and the viable connections and synapses. 

So, what does Gaustine do? Goes on a ‘medication nuisance’ or plays the silent psychological treatment?

He opens a ‘clinic of the past’—elusive in its interpretation and inclusive in its affiliation to the forsaken. A structural avant garde; creating floors of every decade that boasts of the paraphernalia accustomed to the whereabouts nailed and floated in that era. Purpose?

Human emotions and actions are governed by the past; deprived, it dances in our elusive phantasmagoria, and the capability of the mind to shape it in the dreams of the ‘present’ is an honorable shift from ‘gloom to glee’. What if we are not able to retain the dissolving past and it becomes a ‘human syndrome’ tiring as a persona non grata?

We are actually doomed! But there is hope. Hope? The narrator in the poignant and vulnerable book, ‘Time Shelter’ by Georgi Gospodinov sets off to a mission with the Geriatric Psychiatrist Gaustine to give the humble recipients a block, a home or a space that’s resonates with the ‘able-minded typewriter’ or a ‘wooden carving in fondness of the misaligned upholstery, or the saccharine turbulence of the piano wiped incessantly by the lathered sweat; a remembrance of that era lost in the depths of a diagnostic judgment. The apprehensions are laid to rest when forgotten minds cheer-up in the dramatic appurtenances of that period, and arises a lingua franca of repressed emotions.

Profound in its textual arabesque, and philosophical in assessing the human tendency to re-create visions not of the present or future but of the past that recedes as a fragile memory awakened to every distress that the ‘present’ is ignorant to. 

Georgi Gospodinov unleashes magnanimity of emotions in his book, ‘Time Shelter’ interpreting the intellectualism of ‘time’ in the expanse of human degeneration. Articulately poised with putrescent humor and persiflage, the author has envisioned each reflection to draw conclusions on the evanescence of life.

We see Gaustine and the narrator in the profligacy of union and separation. They drink lagers of wisdom and ratiocinations to spread the ‘clinic of the past’ all over the world. Out of the blue, one also sees a parallel shift when countries under the European Union decide to live in the past as future seems a coarse basket of unattainable ideologies. Referendums take a hot spot; each country decides the year/decade it would like to breathe into. 

So, where at one side we see the Sun slip at the back of the horizon, the precept of thriving on the moon takes precedence. A hollow darkness in a nativity of piece de resistance of the desired era—the radio burling Elvis’s music to scrapping of condoms, and igniting the same fervor of revolutionist—all eventually turns out to be a damp squib!

Past—forlorn, isolated, diluted is a personal need to make amendments to the restrictive identity of the ‘self’. Loss of it is contemporaneous to a lonely lion walking in the jungle with no prey in hindsight. People with Dementia and Alzheimer enter the ‘clinic of the past’, say for Mr. N comes close to identifying the woman—his love—through photographs and a Mr. A who felt the clinic like a home, resonating  with the tables, paintings and sofas of that era.

Gradually, the narrator too is ambushed by his own proclivities to bargain, obscure and manipulate. His long conversations with Gaustine reflect an intrinsic fear of channelizing a personality in him that he is privileged to be associated with. Gaustine-Narrator, Narrator-Gaustine; who takes the dominion to change the past or submerges in it is an enigma, or is a philosopher who has contemplated life from the beginning.

TAKE AWAY

An unattainable past confronting the prodigal present or the bemused present looking for answers when the past has lost its own glory!

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