Bulgaria: buzz buzz

January 9, 2012

 

I had a book lined up for Bulgaria. I was going to read Elias Canetti‘s The Tongue Set Free. It was in my bag and everything.

Then I discovered a copy of Georgi Gospodinov ‘s Natural Novel in the excellent indie bookstore McNally Jackson in New York City (where I’m staying for a week or so, hence the different bookshelf) and it sounded so intriguing that I had to buy it and read it there and then.

Normally at this point in a post, I’d give a brief rundown of what the book’s about. I’m stuck here, I’m afraid because, as the narrator, one Georgi Gospodinov, writes in the fictional ‘Editor’s note’ that pops up after chapter 2, ‘the novel itself could hardly be summarized’.

The throughline, such as it is, is the mental disintegration of the protagonist, another Georgi Gospodinov, after a divorce. But to say that seems to reduce the narrative and squash it back on to the page when it is a living, breathing, alarming entity that leaps around the room, in and out of your brain, helping itself to your insecurities.

As his psyche splinters, the writer/narrator gives himself over to experimentation, trying everything from a novel based solely on the beginnings of classic works and a novel written only in verbs to the Bible according to flies (‘The Book of Flies’) and a disquisition on the artistic significance of toilets.

As in several other books I’ve read so far, the ubiquity of Western culture is evident with The Kinks, Reservoir Dogs, Elvis Presley, Daniel Defoe, J.D Salinger and Shakespeare all featuring (along with many others). But here, instead of a sinister, controlling force, it seems rather to be an amusette or smogasbord for Gospodinov to pick at, pull apart and reconfigure as he pleases, often to startling effect.

Essentially, this book is about itself. Fly-like it lights on and digests its own events, regurgitating them in altered form for reconsideration. However, unlike much postmodern literature, it doesn’t take itself wholly seriously. Anarchic and subversive, the narrative bristles with jokes. It pokes fun at me, at you, at them and most of all at itself, while opening a door on to a fresh landscape of linguistic possibilities and ushering us all through.

Natural Novel by Georgi Gospodinov (translated from the Bulgarian by Zornitsa Hristova). Publisher (this edition): Dalkey Archive Press (2005)

5 Responses to “Bulgaria: buzz buzz”

  1. Overall, did you like it? Would you recommend others read it?

    • Absolutely – it’s fabulous. Challenging, mind-boggling, surprising and crazy. It requires an effort – and the ability to accept that you won’t get all of it in one sitting (I certainly didn’t) – but is well worth it.

  2. […] Първоначално тя се спира на “Спасеният език” (“The Tongue Set Free”) на Елиас Канети, но в Ню Йорк се натъкнала на “Естествен роман” (“Natural Novel”) на Георги Господинов, която станала и българската й книга. Ето какво пише авторката в Bulgaria: buzz buzz. […]

  3. […] From Bulgaria, Ann Morgan chose to read Georgi Gospodinov’s Natural Novel. Given my review on the book, I would say it’s a very good […]

  4. […] на Емилиян Станев. От тези книги Ан Морган избира “Естествен роман” От горния списък за Елиас Канети, австриец от еврейски […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 19,399 other followers

%d bloggers like this: