In a touch of genius, Georgi Gospodinov sketches the contemporary world that in a self-salvatory impulse starts stepping back into the past, like an animal digging its body into sand. As it is described in the novel, the act, or – if you will – tendency, begins as a cure for the Alzheimer’s and outgrows it into a social need or trend. The Alzheimer’s becomes the disease of the 21st century – a prognosis of what is about to come in a world overburdened with news, feeds and falsified immediacy of the present moment (falsified as instantly captured and shared with the rest of the world via social media). This overcharge, the author suggests, needs to come to an end.
Gaustine’s invention offers a possibility to look at the Polish contemporary social and political landscape as a multilayered construct of the past. Poland is charged with nostalgia. Uncountable are websites and fansites inciting longing for the Second Republic (1918–1939). The business inspired by and charged with the communist period is in bloom; one of the Krakow city touring hot offers is a trip to Nowa Huta (a post-war district of Kraków, a landmark of the Stalinist urban project) where you are taken in a car from the 1960s with a Lenin graffitti on the body; the present-day political mechanisms resemble more and more those from the communist times; groups reenacting 20th century history skyrocket; etc. There are things we irrevocably lost in the 20th century, like multinationality. The melting pot of not less than four major cultures Poland was composed of – Polish, Jewish, German and Russian – is now merely a song of the past. The present has appropriated and monetized the past. Kazimierz, Kraków’s former Jewish district, may serve as a good example. But looked at from a different perspective, it might also be perceived as a proof of longing for a lost family member. “Cain, where is your brother Abel?” asked God. The Bible quote was used by one of the Polish documentary filmmakers as a title of a film dedicated to the lost Jewish reality. But it is just one out of many examples of the past we’ve lost.
Adapting Gospodinov’s “Time shelter” for the stage, we do not picture it as an adaptation a la lettre: we would like to remain faithful to the novel’s soul, not to the novel’s letter. We would rather (bitten by the Gaustine germ) theatrically create a Polish branch of Gaustine’s enterprise. Inspired by the novel, we would like to create a network of characters who, for various reasons, end up in a clinic. Some of the characters will be inspired by the book, like Mr. N and Mr. A, others are coming from elsewhere – from the memories and lives of the makers of the show, from their fantasies, from old newspapers. We are thinking of TIME SHELTER as of Kaufman’s “Synecdoche New York”, only à rebours: we are simultaneously moving forward and regressing: the world is heading forward, towards a 2029 reenactment of the September 1, 1939; the lives of the protagonists go back towards their early childhood memories, embracing both the personal and the political. We are in Poland. Most of the characters are Polish. Gaustine is the patron of the new reality the characters live in. The created reality is a made-up world, a theatrical set that mimics the real reality. But the emotional reality that arises is weirdly true.
Based on the book titled
Copyright @ 2020, Georgi Gospodinow
All rights reserved
The script is based on actors’ improvisations.
The performance uses excerpts from the Polish translation of Georgi Gospodinov’s novel “Time shelter” by Magdalena Pytlak, Wydawnictwo Literackie, Krakow 2022.
The olfactory setting of the performance:
The play is under the patronage of Onet.