Ивайло Божинов, Expectations
To begin with, Timeshelter is most certainly not a novel. Neither in the strictest, nor in just about any sense of this term. Well-disposed reviewers have tried to hide this behind the sophistry of phrases such as “genre-busting”, “genre-transgressing” etc. No sleight of language however can alter the fact that this book is a hodgepodge of essays, short stories, anecdotes, authorial musings and asides, tangential discourses, glorified diary and notebook entries, a hefty portion of allegorical satire, and much else besides – haphazardly jumbled together under the thematic umbrella of human (personal and historical) time.
The writer attempts to hold this metafictional concoction together by attaching it to what purports to be the narrative “backbone” of the book – he and his avatar/alter ego (both of whom share the initials G.G.) open a series of clinics where various segments of the past are recreated as a form of therapy for people with memory loss. This method of going backwards into the past is then expanded and superseded by most European countries holding referendums to determine their favourite decade in which they then have to live. It is an utterly improbable scenario. A ludicrous conceit, which fails to elevate itself sufficiently to become a dystopian allegory. Ultimately, instead of unifying the various and disparate parts of the book, it merely jars and detracts. There is absurdity as a means of dystopian satire, and then there is absurdity, which is just absurd.
What this writer needed was a good and honest editor, who should have advised him to expunge from the book its utterly unconvincing and superficial premise of the time clinics and time referendums; to refrain from being excessively self-referential (or is it even self-reverential?); to get rid of those anecdotes and stories and asides that don’t contribute much, or not at all to the value of the book; to drop the contention that this is a novel – and there you have it! It has become a collection of essays, or perhaps one long, meandering lyrical and philosophical essay about memory and time. For there are quite a few poignant and elegiac passages in this book, (such as the author’s reminiscences about his father for instance, or some entries in the final part of the book, before its epilogue) but they end up being buried under the unnecessary, confusing, and at times outright awful mishmash of disjointed writing – the result of this book trying too hard to be a novel.
And one more thing. This writer is a compulsive, relentless namedropper. Dozens upon dozens, and dozens of names from the fields of literature, art, music, antiquity… A lot of them seemingly serving no other purpose but to impress us with how fabulously erudite the author is. Truly tiresome. For instance: an anonymous and completely inconsequential character, who flittingly appears in just one paragraph and is only described as a homeless man selling newspapers, has a Gabriel Garcia moustache. Oh, please! One wonders why does this writer feel incontinently compelled to show off his, so it would appear, vast knowledge – inferiority complex, narcissism? Whatever the reason, however, no number of illustrious name references and shrewd quotes can make up for the lack of coherence, and the lack of substance that this book desperately suffers from.
Списание „Нова социална поезия“, ISSN 2603-543X