Georgi Gospodinov: Physik der Schwermut

Translated from the Bulgarian by Alexander Sitzmann
Literaturverlag Droschl 2014
(Fizika na tagata; Janet 45, Plovdiv 2012)

About the book

Gospodinov’s narrator suffers from an excess of empathy: he cannot avoid feeling the experiences of others, no matter who it might be, whether it is his grandfather at the start of the twentieth century, the tiny minotaur imprisoned in a labyrinth, or a snail that is just being devoured. But the passing of time also confounds him, and he seeks to solve this problem with time capsules, containers with everything important for the present. But what is important? For this, lists need to be compiled: a practice that was common among children and young people in the countries of the Eastern Bloc. In numerous, brief poetic chapters, Gospodinov composes a melancholy novel that amuses and surprises, in a provocative way revisiting ancient Greek mythology and 40 years of Bulgarian communism.

Georgi Gospodinov, © Dafinka Stoilova

About the author

Georgi Gospodinov, born in Yambol, Bulgaria in 1968, studied Bulgarian literature in Sofia. During 2008/09, he was a fellow in the Berlin Artist’s Program of the German Exchange Service, a fellow at Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin in 2012, and in 2014 writer in residence in both Vienna and in Zug, Switzerland. A poetry volume Lapidarium, his literary debut, was followed by his first novel, Estestven roman (1999), which brought him to an international audience and has now been translated into 23 languages. His book of short stories And Other Stories was on the long list of nominees for the Frank O’Connor Award.

Recent publications:
8 Minuten und 19 Sekunden
Droschl, Graz 2016, trans. by Alexander Sitzmann
(И всичко стана луна; Janet 45, Plovdiv 2013)

Kleines morgendliches Verbrechen (poems)
Droschl 2010, trans. by Alexander Sitzmann

The Apocalypse Comes at 6 pm (play)

Natürlicher Roman
Droschl 2007, aus dem Bulgarischen von Alexander Sitzmann
(Estestven roman, Korporacia Razvitie, Sofia 1999)

Alexander Sitzmann, © Valzhyna Mort

About the translator:

Alexander Sitzmann, born in Stuttgart in 1974, studied Scandinavian and Slavic languages and literatures in Vienna, where he now teaches and researches. Since 1999, he has also worked as a freelance literary translator from Bulgarian, Macedonian, and the Scandinavian languages. The author of two monographs in linguistics, he has also been the editor of several analogies and journal special issues. He has been the recipient of an the honorary prize of the Bulgarian Ministry for Education and Culture in 2005, the translator’s prize of the Austrian Ministry of Education and Culture from 2007-2013, and numerous fellowships.

Recent publications:
8 Minuten und 19 Sekunden
Droschl, Graz 2016, trans. by Alexander Sitzmann
(И всичко стана луна; Janet 45, Plovdiv 2013)

Theodora Dimova: Die Mütter
Wieser Verlag 2014, aus dem Bulgarischen von Alexander Sitzmann
(Maikite, Ciela, Sofia 2006)

Palmi Ranchev: Ein bißchen Glück für später: Erzählungen
Wieser Verlag 2014, aus dem Bulgarischen von Alexander Sitzmann
(Malko kštmet za po-štsno, Fama, Sofia 2006)

Alek Popov: Schneeweißchen und Partisanenrot
Residenzverlag 2014, trans. by Alexander Sitzmann
(Sestri Palaveevi v burjata na istorijata, Sofia, ciela 2013)

Alexander Sitzmann (ed): Auf den Spuren von Penčo Georgiev
Black Flamingo Publishing 2013, trans. and with a preface by Alexander Sitzmann
(Po dirite na Penčo Georgiev, Sofia, Black Flamingo Publishing 2013)

The jury on the shortlist nomination

“An explosive mixture of stories, ideas, memories, inspiration, and humor is offered by the Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov in the novel Physik der Schwermut. In this virtual chamber of wonders, he author collects all sorts of things, both possible and impossible: old punch cards and the myth of the minotaur, as well as childhood games and a love story in Hungary, that the grandfather never spoke about—without a word of explanation he returned a year late from the war to his wife and children, and was at first kept hidden in the cellar, because the village had already celebrated him as a fallen hero. Georgi Gospodinov’s pleasurably assembling and collaging narrator saves what has been or should have been forgotten from the cellars of many ages—not least the Communist past of Bulgaria. In his second novel, with its countless inspirations, stylistic approaches, and forms that Alexander Sitzmann easily does justice to, Gospodinov, who is also a poet, dramatist, and essayist, proves to be a Scheherazade thoroughly familiar with post-modern irony, absurd humor, and light-hearted self-reflection.”