cover image Time Shelter

Time Shelter

Georgi Gospodinov, trans. from the Bulgarian by Angela Rodel. Liveright, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-1-324-09095-3

A radical new therapy tests the power of nostalgia in the electric and fantastical latest from Gospodinov (The Physics of Sorrow). In present-day Vienna, geriatric psychiatrist Gaustine redecorates his clinic in the style of the 1960s, replete with miniature pink Cadillacs and Beatles memorabilia. Patients with memory issues appear invigorated by the decor and share more during therapy. The narrator, an unnamed amateur novelist who had the same idea as Gaustine years earlier, comes across an article about the psychiatrist and seeks him out. They strike up an unusual collaboration: Gaustine establishes clinics that painstakingly recreate bygone eras with artifacts tracked down by the novelist. The clinics rapidly expand and start offering services to healthy people, and eventually entire countries opt to simulate returns to supposedly happier eras (France, Germany, and Spain all choose the 1980s). The clever prose sells the zany premise and imbues it with poignant longing: “Everything happens years after it has happened.... Most likely 1939 did not exist in 1939, there were just mornings when you woke up with a headache, uncertain and afraid.” Thought-provoking and laced with potent satire, this deserves a spot next to Kafka. (May)