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Natural Novel

Natural Novel

by Georgi Gospodinov, Zornitsa Hristova (Translator)
"Natural Novel is simultaneously erudite and funny a lucky combination that rarely occurs in Bulgarian books." Kapital


"Natural Novel is simultaneously erudite and funny a lucky combination that rarely occurs in Bulgarian books." Kapital

Editorial Reviews

“The superb style and flowingly written narrative along with the clever switching between different forms of discourse and genres turn Gospodinov into a harbinger of a new, fruitful literary form.”
“The book is laugh-out-loud-funny but also touching; occasionally, it approaches the sublime. When so many postmodern novels are content to play their structural and thematic tricks, Natural Novel is an honest and human tale about loss and the awkward abyss on the other side of divorce.”
“Natural Novel is really an unidentified literary object and is almost impossible to retell. It is at the same time funny and erudite, arrogant and refined, yet brilliant in every respect and innovative in form.”
World Literature Today
“Like Fernando Pessoa, Gospodinov has disappeared within his multiple selves (author, narrator, editor, gardener) and has become a detached observer of his own life. The narrative is rich in mini-stories . . . and the composition is multifaceted, like a fly's eye . . . All this informs the postmodern quality of Gospodinov's fiction.”
The New Yorker
Gospodinov’s anarchic, experimental début concerns a young writer, the narrator, whose marriage breaks up after his wife becomes pregnant by someone else. But this plot is little more than the framework for a lively assortment of fragments—dreams, lists, projected attempts to write a novel entirely with verbs or a Bible for flies, and a chapter called “Towards a Natural History of the Toilet.” Inevitably, a book that takes such risks occasionally falls on its face; some of Gospodinov’s scatology feels self-conscious, and pop-culture references, presumably intended to seem wised-up and Western, come off as just the reverse. But the hits outnumber the misses, and there is something engaging about the novel’s stubborn refusal to amount to anything. As the narrator announces, “My immodest desire is to mold a novel of beginnings, a novel that keeps starting, promising something, reaching page 17 and then starting again.”
Library Journal
First time novelist Gospodinov's concept of a natural novel involves placing disparate pieces of everyday life next to one another and letting them reveal their native connections, their own "story." The intriguing theory is tested as the narrator flits from chapter to chapter in an attempt to draw together multiple story lines. The various fragments include the narrator's divorce from his wife, the history of toilets, and ruminations on a fly's life and purpose. The results are mildly interesting. While the characters' tales are told with little emotional involvement, there are flashes of strong humor sprinkled throughout. This volume did win a national competition for contemporary novels in Bulgaria in 1999, though the postmodern style of the book will not appeal to all readers. An interview with the author is included. Recommended for modern/alternative literature collections.-Heather Wright, ASRC Aerospace Corp., Cincinnati Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A brief, witty, experimental debut novel about the sorrowful fragmented musings of a newly divorced man-originally published in 1999 in Bulgarian. The hapless first-person narrator, who functions as frustrated author, editor, and protagonist, aims to write a narrative of beginnings "that keeps starting, promising something," as he says, "then starting again." The result reads like diary entries, containing dreams, memories, extracts from texts of classical literature, and "pointless" dialogue. The plot, such as it is, centers on the precipitating crisis of the narrator's divorce. His wife of seven years, after a period of estrangement, becomes pregnant by another man; the husband moves out of their Sofia apartment, which is heavy with associations; the two divorce, and the man obsesses about his ex-wife. Unhinged, he becomes morbidly fascinated by the banality of everyday things, such as the function of the toilet: "The more irrationally isolated I became about my marriage," he notes, "the more I drifted toward the bathroom." His attempt to write a "natural history of the toilet," if only to crack the enforced silence around the subject, becomes a metaphor for the constricting inadequacy of language itself, as these fragments themselves demonstrate. The narrator's close observation of the fly is another means of idiosyncratic expression. Alas, after introducing a bit of content in his marital narrative, but then pulling back without follow-through, he's left sitting in his rocking chair, tattered and inarticulate, while the reader grows increasingly exasperated, relieved to reach the end. (Skip the self-congratulatory author interview.) Weirdly well written and equally self-conscious. TheFrench have already claimed this Bulgarian poet and short-story author.

Product Details

Dalkey Archive Press
Publication date:
Eastern European Literature Series
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Gospodinov was born in Bulgaria in 1968. He is the editor-in-chief of a weekly literary magazine published in Bulgaria and a professor at the New Bulgarian University. He lives and works in Sofia, Bulgaria.

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