cover image NATURAL NOVEL


Georgi Gospodinov, , trans. from the Bulgarian by Zornitsa Hristova. . Dalkey Archive, $12.50 (136pp) ISBN 978-1-56478-376-9

It's hard to read Gospodinov's first novel and not feel indifferent at times: composed of scraps, half-stories, jokes and character sketches that haphazardly weave in and out, this slim jaunt won't satiate anyone looking for a tight plot or traditional resolutions. Its airy ruminations, delivered in banal conversational style, don't offer much in the department of prose poetics, either. In fact, Gospodinov isn't interested in any of the usual conventions of the novel, but in the nature of writing a novel itself, specifically the irreconcilable condition of being both spontaneous, or "natural," and crafting a work of critical value. Though there is a story that flits about—a man named Georgi Gospodinov and his wife get a divorce after she becomes pregnant with another man's baby—it's more an impetus for digression and narrative destabilization than an actual plot. Without the usual anchors, the novel turns into a work of small strokes and minor wit: a conversation about oft-scrawled-upon public bathrooms and their "intimate toilet revolutions" is sublime, and the motif of a fly with its multipaneled eye, each containing a fragment of the whole image, serves the work well. Others have handled the question of fictional integrity with more fireworks, but Gospodinov keeps his work swift and unbothered in the face of an ordinary yet infinitely complex conundrum. (Feb.)