“It's been written that the past is a foreign country. Nonsense. The past is my home country. The future is a foreign country, full of strange faces, I won't set foot there,” says the narrator of Time Shelter, the 2023 International Booker Prize winning novel by Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov. Hopelessness about the future feeds the beasts of the past. The violent consequences of this turn are all too obvious: Russia is waging “a war not only for territory, but also for time,” as Gospodinov has put it, seeking to drag Ukraine and Ukrainians into a warped vision of the past.
But it is precisely Ukrainians’ commitment to and hope in the future that sustains them in their fight, bolstered by the memory of generations past. Can memory serve as an antidote to invented histories, thereby “holding the past at bay”? How can the stories we tell and read shape our understanding? Georgi Gospodinov, writer and translator Ostap Slyvynsky, and literary scholar and translator Uilleam Blackerspeak with historian Katherine Younger about our stories and dreams of the past and memory's role in shaping the future.