Narrative, Labyrinth, and Quantum Physics

Georgi Gospodinov is a Bulgarian author you should look into. I first read his excellent work, Natural Novel, and now his latest, The Physics of Sorrow. If you enjoy authors who manipulate the forms of narrative, Gospodinov is a must.

Also, let’s face it: how many Bulgarian writers do you know? I assume there are far more than we know in translation but Bulgaria has a recent history of being lost in the labyrinth of the Iron Curtain and is only now emerging.


Also, Bulgarian is a language that doesn’t get a lot of attention. Did you know that there is no Rosetta Stone language course for Bulgarian? But I understand that if you speak Romanian, you can get along in Bulgarian (what? Rosetta Stone doesn’t have a Romanian course either?).

The Physics of Sorrow is one of those books you have to read yourself to truly appreciate. The basis of the novel is the story of the Minotaur in the Labyrinth. The structure of the story reveals the labyrinth of life through images such as the city as a labyrinth. And what do we encounter as we solve the puzzles of living? Is it a man or a beast?

The author moves the narrative of this novel from exposing himself as the beastly amalgam hidden in the dark basement to the historical or mythological Minotaur from the Greek stories, to present day life in Bulgaria, but still recognizing that he is not just one person but rather the sum-total of all his antecedents. Life is contained in a labyrinth of time as well as space.

When you read The Physics of Sorrow you may find a different approach to the narrative. It’s complex and makes you think (even if you aren’t well versed in quantum physics).

From The Physics of Sorrow:

That which has not been told, just like that which has not happened—because they’re of the same order—possesses all possibilities, countless variations on how they could happen or be told.


Alas, the story is linear and you have to get rid of the detours every time, wall up the side corridors. The classical narrative is an annulling of the possibilities that rain down on you from all sides. Before you fix its boundaries, the world is full of parallel versions and corridors. All possible outcomes potter about only in hesitation and indecisiveness. And quantum physics, filled with indeterminacy and uncertainty, has proved this.

I try to leave space for other versions to happen, cavities in the story, more corridors, voices and rooms, unclosed-off stories, as well as secrets that we will not pry into . . . And there, where the story’s sin was not avoided, hopefully uncertainty was with us.


Has anyone ever developed a quantum physics of literature? If there, too, the lack of an observer presupposes all manner of combinations, just imagine what kind of carnival is raging among the elementary particles of the novel. What on earth is happening between its covers when no one is reading it? Now there are questions that deserve some thought.

2 thoughts on “Narrative, Labyrinth, and Quantum Physics

  1. But not so many available in English. One worth reading is Miroslav Penkov. I really enjoyed his short story collection “East of the West.” Now he’s published a novel called “Stork Mountain.”Bulgarian author Elias Canetti won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1981, but he moved with his parents to England when he was a young child.


    1. I have read a lot of Canetti (mostly non-fiction, journals, etc.) and consider Auto da-Fé a great novel that everyone must read. Although Canetti was born in Bulgaria, I have always classed him as German since that is the language he wrote in.

      I call this the Nabokov Problem … is Vladimir Nabokov a Russian author or an American author?

      I’ll look out for Penkov’s new novel. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

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