Category: Old age

Georgi Gospodinov: Времеубежище (Time Shelter)

The latest addition to my website is Georgi Gospodinov‘s Времеубежище (Time Shelter). Gaustine, who may or may not exist but whom we have met before in Физика на тъгата (The Physics of Sorrow), is a geriatric psychiatrist. Assisted by the narrator who calls himself Ishmael but may well be the author, he sets up a series of homes for the Alzheimer’s/dementia patients which are seemingly set in various decades in the past, with all the relevant trappings, thus making these patients feel more at home as they regress to the past. However, eventually, the EU decides to do the same for countries as a whole, with the favourite decade decided by popular vote. Some of the book is clearly Gospodinov ruminating on memory, the past, the future, death, forgetting and remembering, with a host of fascinating ideas about how we are regressing to the past while struggling with the future. As always with Gospodinov, a thoroughly original book.

Hassouna Mosbahi: الطلييتيم الدهر (Solitaire)

The latest addition to my website is Hassouna Mosbahi‘s الطلييتيم الدهر (Solitaire). Yunus is a Tunisian man who has just reached he age of sixty. He feels that his life is coming to an end. He is divorced. His country is, in his view, a mess and totally corrupt and so is the greater Arab world. This view seems to be more or less shared by his friends of the same age. Much of the book takes he form of his reminiscences, which include his interest in Sufism (and he recounts tales of Sufi mystics), Tunisian history (stories from Tunisian history), literature (he loves Flaubert and even tells us two tales based on Flaubert) and his own life which has inevitably been somewhat complicated. We also get comparisons with his male friends, including those who have spent most of their adult life away from Tunisia and returned to find that the country is in a much worse state than they had thought it would be. All agree: old age is awful and the country and the world have gone to the dogs. There is one woman who gets something of a look-in: President Ben Ali’s second wife, Leïla Ben Ali, née Trabelsi, who is viciously attacked for her corruption. But, on the whole this is about men not liking getting old and looking back on their often interesting life and as such it works very well.

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