Georgi Gospodinov, Author

By Georgi Gospodinov

Georgi Gospodinov © Phelia Baruh
A moment of the day. The afternoon, of course. It’s the Afternoon of the world. It is symbolic and very literal at the same time. I have always liked afternoons, but this one is different. It’s about 3 in the afternoon. People say this was the hour of Christ’s death, they call it the noonday demon, a particular kind of sorrow, acedia. A minute is an infinity, the world is still, a fly is buzzing in the distance, nothing is going on, nothing happens. Except death. There is a late painting by Edward Munch - Between the Clock and the Bed. We are standing between the computer, the window and the couch.

I was just about to complete my stay at the Wissenshaftskolleg in Grunewald, Berlin, when all of this began. Thank god, I have my wife and daughter with me. My library is back in Sofia and I really miss the feeling of pulling a book from the shelves, sinking in its labyrinth, returning it, and pulling another. When all of this ends, books will prove to be our first and final refuge.

It is very important how we will emerge from this crisis as human beings, how much of our humanity will be preserved after we leave the caves of our rooms. Survival is only the first link in the chain, the first test, with more to come. There are two possible outcomes. The first one is that isolation unleashes long-repressed hostilities, a breakdown of the human, transgression, anger, new forms of selfishness, or fathomless grief and indifference. The second is that we develop renewed sensitivities to the lost world, compassion and empathy, a new sensitivity towards the other and more reason in judging what we really need and what we can leave behind. How will our rituals of intimacy change? How will we touch, hug, approach each other again? We will have a long road to walk, centimeter by centimeter, until we meet each other again. My most optimistic prediction for the world after? It’s afternoon again, we are on a sunny meadow - the meadow of the world, reading, having a beer and a snack. Some kids play ball nearby, the ball suddenly lands at our feet and we pass it back to them, laughing.

What gives me hope is the testimony of art, books, paintings, music - there were times like this before, but they came to pass and humanity survived. I hope that in such situations science, knowledge and culture mobilize and enter a new phase. I believe that we humans are resilient and able to learn. Perhaps we will finally come to realise that we are not almighty, but a part of life, just a link in its complicated, bright chain. Nothing more and nothing less. And that this is actually very important. In a sense, it is everything. We are part of life.