Natural Novel

Georgi Gospodinov

translated from the Bulgarian by Zornitsa Hristova
Dalkey Archive Press 2005
A book review by Danny Yee © 2005
The narrator of Natural Novel (Estestven Roman, 1999) breaks up with his girlfriend Emma, who has got pregnant by another man; unable to cope with this, his life comes apart. Clinging to a rocking chair and other vestiges of his life, he ends up as a gardener in a small village, maintaining the balance of the world.

Each chapter of Natural Novel — and there are forty of them, so they're rather short — is close to being a separate short story. In some the narrator looks back at his earlier life: he keeps returning to his relationship with Emma, but also to his schooldays, where, among other things, he learned about uric acid and questioned the link between God and electricity. In others he engages in literary musing, speculating about the possibility of a novel written using only verbs, for example, or contemplating a natural history of the toilet. There are also some narrative games: the editor who appears in an editorial note inserted between chapters 2 and 3 has the same name as the tramp with a rocking chair whose novel he publishes...

This may sound dizzying, but through this varied and fragmentary mosaic run the threads of a coherent story, keeping everything nicely tied together. The result is an easy, entertaining read, with a wealth of ideas which, though never explored in depth, provoke and inspire.

January 2005

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%T Natural Novel
%A Gospodinov, Georgi
%M Bulgarian
%F Hristova, Zornitsa
%I Dalkey Archive Press
%D 2005
%O paperback
%G ISBN 1564783766
%P 136pp