The Physics of Sorrow

“[The] real quest in The Physics of Sorrow is to find a way to live with sadness, to allow it to be a source of empathy and salutary hesitation… Chronicling everyday life in Bulgaria means trying to communicate Bulgarian “sadness,” which is—to the extent that these things can be disentangled—as much a linguistic as a metaphysical dilemma” —Garth Greenwell, The New Yorker


The Physics of Sorrow has

The Physics of Sorrow has been published in English, German, French, Italian, Serbian and Slovenian, and is forthcoming in Dutch, Danish and Arabian. The novel has been widely reviewed in the international press, it has been compared to the writing of Danilo Kis and Borges, among others. In the words of Andreas Breitenstein of Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 2014, Physics of Sorrow has [and I quote] “an experimentally playful, wittily absurd, postmodernly contradictory, self-reflexively ironic style of storytelling ... Meandering headlong, the path rises up to steep heights and descends to unfathomable depths… [Georgi Gospodinov] rises above the lowlands of novelistic commercialism and convention, saving not only himself, but literature as well – and with it, the entire world” [end quote].

The organizing principle of the novel is the extreme capacity of the narrator for empathy, through which we are invited to experience, among other things, the fear of the Minotaur at his separation from his mother, the loneliness of a child growing up in a ground-floor apartment during the 1970s Bulgaria, and the death of a slug. Аз сме. I are, or, in Angela Rodel’s translation, We am. A little boy speaks  - from Minotaur’s labyrinth, from a basement at the end of the war, from a bunker.

          In the words of Pete Mitchel in Asymptote, the author [and I quote] “is interested in the idea of a radical, trans-human empathy not for what it allows him to do in terms of storytelling [he could have written a magic realist novel which might sell better], but in the way that it makes the entire world a potentially boundless repository of lived experience, a universal archive of the senses, of emotions, and of narrative.” [end quote]. Through time and space, the narrator inhabits basements, archives, produces lists, time capsules, and breathtaking narratives. 

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Georgi Gospodinov
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