News from #BulgarianLiteratureMonth

After the first third of Bulgarian Literature Month at the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative – editor/curator is yours truly -, I can say that it is a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. The correspondence with and reactions of contributors, readers, and even authors are so far very encouraging.

Here an overview regarding the published blog posts until now:

Bulgarian Literature Month – a short introduction
Promoting Bulgarian Literature in the Anglosphere: Interview with Milena Deleva, Managing Director of the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation
The Satire of Alek Popov (by Ellis Shuman)
Georgi Gospodinov’s Natural Novel (by Scott Bailey)
Albena Stambolova’s Everything Happens As It Does (by Jean Ping)
Blagovest Sendov: John Atanasoff – The Electronic Prometheus
“Our bitter beloved borderless Balkans”: Kapka Kassabova’s Border (by Dorian Stuber)
Bulgarian Poetry in English Translation: Anthologies – an overview 
Bulgarian Poetry in English Translation (II): the pre-1944 period
Bulgarian Poetry in English Translation (III/1): the period 1944-1989 – Konstantin Pavlov
Marina Konstantinova: The White Coast

Several of the blog posts have been re-blogged, shared or re-tweeted, some of our reviewers also spread the word, and this little piece by Scott Bailey made me smile (especially the headline of the article).

I am expecting some extremely interesting contributions in the upcoming days. Check it out and spread the word about #BulgarianLiteratureMonth – thank you!

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-8. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Bulgarian Literature Month started

As announced earlier, I am busy these weeks with editorial work related to the Bulgarian Literature Month at the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative.

The first blog post, a short introduction, was published yesterday. Today there is an extremely interesting interview I could conduct with Milena Deleva, the Managing Director of the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation, the most important institution active in the promotion of Bulgarian literature in the English-speaking world.

For those with an interest in Bulgarian literature, I recommend to follow all the blog posts at GLLI in June. There will be reviews, poetry, interviews, publisher profiles and a few other things related to Bulgarian literature.

Happy reading!

#BulgarianLiteratureMonth

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-8. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

More, more, more

More money, more consumption, more happiness – the trinity of our so-called modern life. And in this utilitarian world, “happiness” seems to be the highest good, the one final goal that all of us should aspire to achieve. It is for a reason that “the pursuit of happiness” is mentioned in a prominent place in the American Declaration of Independence, and that Jeremy Bentham’s phrase “the greatest happiness of the greatest number – that is the measure of right and wrong” is one of the major pillars of the predominant political philosophy of our times. What’s left for all those who are not able or willing to subscribe to the fetish “happiness”: prozac, psychotherapy, or the final exit. Or, possibly, the utopia of a life that is not happy, but meaningful.

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-8. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Bulgarian Literature Month: title pick and giveaways

As I have mentioned earlier, the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative is organizing a Bulgarian Literature Month in June, and I will be the editor of this event.

In the meantime, I have already commissioned quite a number of reviews and will also post one or two things myself. However, there are still a number of books that could be included, provided I find a reviewer (preferably a book blogger or someone else who is doing bookish things).

Here is a short list of books which – if you belong to the category mentioned above – are open still for reviewing during Bulgarian Literature Month:

Classics:

Ivan Vazov: Under the Yoke – the first Bulgarian novel, and until today read in school
Aleko Konstantinov: Bay Ganyo – not all Bulgarian love this book, because it is satirically exposing certain elements of the Bulgarian national character (just like not all Czechs love Schwejk!)

A modern classic:

Ivailo Petrov: Wolf Hunt –  

Contemporary Bulgarian literature:

Virginia Zaharieva: 9 Rabbits
Albena Stambolova: Everything Happens As It Does
Angel Igov: A Short Tale of Shame
Zahary Karabashliev: 18% Gray
Hristo Karastoyanov: The Same Night Awaits Us All
Georgi Gospodinov: Natural Novel
Deyan Enev: Circus Bulgaria
Angel Wagenstein: Farewell, Shanghai

Bulgarian-born authors that write in another language:

Miroslav Penkov: East of the West
Miroslav Penkov: Stork Mountain
Kapka Kassabova: Street without a Name
Ilija Troyanow: Collector of the Worlds
Elias Canetti: The Tongue Set Free

Fiction by foreign authors but with a Bulgarian setting:

Will Buckingham: The Descent of the Lyre
Rana Dasgupta: Solo
Garth Greenwell: What Belongs to You
Elizabeth Kostova: The Shadow Land
Julian Barnes: The Porcupine

Non-fiction:

Dimana Trankova / Anthony Georgieff: A Guide to Jewish Bulgaria
Dimana Trankova / Anthony Georgieff: A Guide to Communist Bulgaria
Tzvetan Todorov: The Fragility of Goodness
Mary C. Neuburger: Balkan Smoke
Clive Leviev-Sawyer: Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century
 
The reviews need to be unpublished and preferably in English. Let me know if you are interested in reviewing a book on this list.

I have also a few giveaways. Those will be given preferably to those who commit themselves to write a review of the above mentioned titles. If you are interested in a giveaway (it should be reviewed too for Bulgarian Literature Month), please let me know until 29 April. If several people are interested in a giveaway, I will draw lots.

The giveaways:

Milen Ruskov: Thrown Into Nature – a novel by one of Bulgaria’s most acclaimed contemporary writers
 
Kerana Angelova: Elada Pinyo and Time – “The novel describes the myth of the person who travels through various wombs and embraces, undergoes multiple transformations due to the culture of times, yet never stops expressing the deep faith that above our earthly trials watches the law of love.”
 
Randall Baker: Bulgariana – diary of one of the founders of New Bulgarian University in Sofia; a fun read that gives a deep and sympathetic insight into the Bulgaria of the 21st Century
 
Nikolai Grozni: Claustrophobias – an autobiographical novel of an author that was a wunderkind pianist and a monk in an ashram in India, and a lot of other things
 
Ivailo Petrov: Before I was born – story collection of one of the most important post-WW II authors from Bulgaria (the book is antiquarian, but in very good condition)
 
Hristo Hristov: Kill the Wanderer – Hristov, an investigative journalist, describes the life and the assassination of Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian author and journalist, in London. Considering the recent news about Julia Kristeva, who was exposed as a collaborator of the Bulgarian State Security, it is important to not forget what this institution did to enemies of the system.
 
And now, let me know which book you want to review, and in which giveaway you are interested. (The winners will be informed individually and by a post here on 30 April.) 

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-8. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 


Goethe’s late love

In 1821, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe planned to visit his hometown Frankfurt am Main and the Rhine valley. After the death of his wife Christiane five years earlier, he hadn’t undertaken any visits far away from home, and his trip to Karlsbad and Marienbad 1820 was for medical reasons. Since Goethe was not in good health then, his doctors prescribed the mineral water of the Bohemian spas which had done the poet and statesman well on prior occasions. A bout of illness prevented the planned meeting with old friends in the West, and the by then 72 year-old Goethe followed the medical advice to go again to Marienbad.

The small book “Goethes späte Liebe” (Goethe’s late love) by Dagmar von Gersdorff recounts what happened in Marienbad. Goethe arrived in Marienbad in good spirits; he was additionally lucky to meet an old acquaintance, the attractive Amalie von Levetzow, an energetic woman in her early thirties, twice divorced, and owner of a representative villa she rented out to guests from the aristocracy and high society. Amalie had married very early and had three daughters; the oldest one, Ulrike, then a 17-year old teenager, caught immediately Goethe’s eye.

Ulrike von Levetzow, 1821 – Pastel by an unknown painter

Ulrike, who was attending a boarding school in France where she got a French education, had never heard of Goethe, and had therefore in the beginning no idea that the old gentleman she met was Germany’s most important poet and at the same time Head of the Government of the small Grand-Duchy Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach – the Grand-Duke was also an old friend of her mother Amalie. Goethe took no offence and was obviously in the contrary smitten by the natural friendliness and attentiveness of the girl. Soon they went out for walks together, with Goethe introducing many to the girl new topics that covered a wide range of subjects (astronomy, geology, mineralogy, botany, but of course also poetry and literature). In the evening they would sit together on a bench in front of the villa talking vividly, reading or discussing copper plates Goethe had ordered. Also the younger sisters were involved, Goethe attended picnics and dinner invitations with them, danced and had fun.

While Ulrike’s family treated Goethe like a family member, it was for most people in Marienbad a source for permanent gossip to see the transformation of Goethe. While at the arrival he made the impression of an old sick man, he was soon bursting with energy and was visibly rejuvenated; the reason for this transformation was easy to guess. Soon the gossip reached also Weimar, and Goethe’s son August and his wife Ottilie, who lived with their children in Goethe’s house in Weimar were not exactly delighted about the news. But once the summer was over, and Goethe went back to Weimar, things calmed down again, but from letters to his friend Zelter we know that Goethe felt the contrast between the cheerful atmosphere in Marienbad and the cold reception at home by his son and daughter-in-law as rather depressing.

Goethe spent also the summer of 1822, and then again the summer of 1823 in Marienbad. It seems that in 1822, his feelings for Ulrike became so serious that he considered a marriage proposal, despite the age gap of 55 years. When it became obvious to his surrounding, that the old man was serious, tout Weimar was bursting with gossip about this scandal. Schiller’s widow, the Humboldt’s, even Wilhelm Grimm, or Bettine von Arnim from Berlin were sending letters back and forth in which they secretly scolded the foolishness of Goethe. It was not the first time Goethe faced this kind of situation. Similar scandals followed his early relationship with Frau von Stein, and his running away to Italy for two years, leaving behind important state business and a whole town wondering what happened to their most prominent inhabitant (after the Grand Duke, Goethe’s old friend and protector); the small town of Weimar also didn’t accept the fact that Goethe lived for many years with Christiane Vulpius, a woman who was considered as socially inferior, a mesalliance – and on top of it they were not even married! Goethe seem not to have cared very much for gossip, but this time things were different.

August and Ottilie threatened Goethe to desert him and leave, together with their children – if a young woman would enter the house as Goethe’s wife; especially the danger not to see his beloved grandchildren any more was a heavy burden on Goethe’s soul. When the Grand Duke travelled to Marienbad to visit the von Levetzow family and to submit on Goethe’s behalf a marriage proposal, the house at the Frauenplan was almost in a state of war. Cold and harsh were the words August and Ottilie exchanged with Goethe, and he started to feel like a stranger in his own house. Meanwhile, the Grand Duke had not only submitted Goethe’s marriage proposal, he had also explained that in the case Ulrike would live in Weimar, also a house for her family would be built by the Grand Duke; Ulrike would be the First Lady at the court of the Grand Duke; she would receive a generous livelong pension and would be treated like royalty in every respect. Ulrike’s mother made it clear that she would not interfere in her daughter’s decision; while she was very sceptical because of the age gap, it was clear that the proposal was also an honor. Ulrike declined, especially since she sensed that this would affect the peace in the house of Goethe. And of course, we might say, her feelings were very different from that of Goethe.

Ulrike von Levetzow lived until 1899; in that moment she was the last person that knew Goethe personally. She never married, although she received many marriage proposals. A few years before her death, she wrote down a text in which she gave her side of the story. It was no love affair, she claims. Goethe was like a grandfather, a sweet, good-natured man, educating her on many subjects; and he saw in her only a daughter (or grand-daughter). She plays down the seriousness of the matter, but for Goethe, it was definitely much more. What exactly happened between them, we don’t know; they kissed at least on one occasion; and how explicit Goethe made his wish to marry her in his conversations with her, we can only guess. While the decline of the marriage proposal was never formally voiced, Goethe still had hopes, a fact that is also very clear from his correspondence with the girl’s mother. But when in October 1824, Ulrike and her mother were passing by Weimar without stopping to meet Goethe (whom they even saw on the street), we can easily guess that the old man was heartbroken. Still, he kept the correspondence going, and even shortly before his death his thoughts were with Ulrike as we know from letters. 

It was an impossible love, no doubt. And deep inside, we can be sure that Goethe knew it. But still, this love brought him new energy and inspiration and the Marienbad Elegy, probably the most beautiful of his later works is one of the results of this love of an old man to a young girl.

The last stanza goes like this:

Mir ist das All, ich bin mir selbst verloren,
Der ich noch erst den Göttern Liebling war;
Sie prüften mich, verliehen mir Pandoren,
So reich an Gütern, reicher an Gefahr;
Sie drängten mich zum gabeseligen Munde,
Sie trennen mich, und richten mich zugrunde.

(To me is all, I to myself am lost,
Who the immortals’ fav’rite erst was thought;
They, tempting, sent Pandoras to my cost,
So rich in wealth, with danger far more fraught;
They urged me to those lips, with rapture crown’d,
Deserted me, and hurl’d me to the ground.)

(translation by Edgar Alfred Bowring)

Dagmar von Gersdorff: Goethes späte Liebe, Insel Verlag Frankfurt am Main und Leipzig 2005

A classic that covers the same period of time:

Johannes Urzidil: Goethe in Böhmen, Zürich: Artemis, 1962 (1935)

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-8. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 


Vladislav Hristov: Germanii – jetzt auf deutsch

Der von mir aus dem Bulgarischen übersetzte Gedichtband von Vladislav Hristov ist jetzt auf dem Markt. Wir (die Verleger gemeinsam mit dem Autor) haben das Buch gerade aus der Druckerei in Sofia abgeholt – bald kann man es auch im deutschsprachigen Raum in den Buchhandlungen bestellen. Oder auch direkt bei uns, falls ihr es eilig habt  (In diesem Fall schickt mir hier einfach eine Nachricht.)

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing

Von links nach rechts: Vladislav Hristov (Autor), Elitsa Osenska (Verlegerin), Thomas Hübner (Verleger und Übersetzer)

Photo: Stefan Bakarov

Image may contain: sky, ocean, outdoor and text

Vladislav Hristov: Germanii, Rhizome Verlag, Sofia (Übersetzer: Thomas Hübner); der geschmackvolle Einband stammt von Ivo Rafailov. 

Ein paar Stimmen zum Buch: 

Der renommierte bulgarische Dichter Ivan Teofilov schreibt:

“”Germanii” von Vladislav Hristov ist eine bemerkenswerte Lektüre. Diese Zusammenstellung von ausdrucksstarken Fragmenten zeigt eines der größten Probleme unserer bulgarischen Existenz – die Emigration. Keine andere Lektüre zum Thema Emigration hat mich so sehr angesprochen, wie dieses lapidare Drama. Die ungewöhnliche Intensität dieser Poesie, ihre Breite und Tiefe machen “Germanii” zu einem der bedeutendsten Werke unserer zeitgenössischen Dichtung.” 

Die Schriftstellerin und Literaturkritikerin Sylvia Choleva (Literaturredakteurin beim Bulgarischen Nationalen Radio):

“Meiner Meinung nach leistet der Gedichtband “Germanii” viel mehr als der Journalismus zum Thema Emigration. Er dringt direkt und zart in das zerrissene Herz junger Bulgaren von heute ein, die gezwungen sind, sich selbst und die Welt in den extremen und schwierigen Lebensbedingungen im Ausland zu erkennen. Dieses Buch zeigt, dass die Kombination von aktuellen Themen und hoher Poesie nicht nur möglich, sondern in diesem Fall auch hervorragend gelungen ist.”

Der Schriftsteller Palmi Ranchev – im deutschsprachigen Raum vor allem durch seinen Roman “Der Weg nach Sacramento”, Dittrich Verlag 2011, bekannt – schreibt zum Gedichtband “Germanii”:

“Nachdem du nur ein paar Gedichte gelesen hast, fängst du an die Welt mit den Augen von Vladislav Hristov zu sehen. In dieser Welt gibt es mehr Licht, deshalb fällt dir auf, was dir ansonsten entgeht, und du neigst dazu, in Fällen zu vergeben, in denen du sonst gnadenlos bist. Und während er Wahrheiten äußert, ohne große Hoffnung, aber auch ohne Angst, dass niemand sie hört, sind seine Worte nicht gewöhnlich. Sie kommen aus Tiefen, aus denen nur das echte poetische Gefühl sie hervorzubringen vermag.”

Eine kurze, aber interessante Besprechung von Buchbloggerin Lizzy Siddal findet sich auf ihrer Website “Lizzy’s Literary World“.  

Es stehen noch ein paar Besprechungsexemplare bereit; bei konkretem Interesse bitte eine kurze Nachricht an mich.

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-8. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 


How official Bulgaria is (not) promoting its literature abroad

The second year in a row, I tried to get a copy of the actual edition of the “Catalogue of Contemporary Bulgarian Prose” – and the second time in a row, I failed.

But I am sure, it is much more efficient for the promotion of Bulgarian literature abroad to display a huge number of copies of this almanach – that was especially produced to serve the interest of those abroad who want to publish/promote Bulgarian authors in foreign languages – in “Peroto”, the book cafe in the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, than to hand out one copy to someone who belongs to the target group and makes an effort to get some Bulgarian authors published abroad.

This experience is completely in line with the bleak picture of how official Bulgaria – i.e. the state institution responsible for it – is (not) promoting its literature abroad.

And since I am at it: why was Bulgaria not officially represented in Leipzig, the book fair that is focused on Eastern Europe? Why is the Bulgarian booth in Frankfurt so poor and unprofessional? It is a pity, because these failed efforts are not reflecting what Bulgarian literature has to offer. With the same budget, with an attitude that is a little bit less arrogant, and with a little bit more professionalism it would be easy to achieve something much more effective and sustainable. It’s Bulgarian authors who suffer most from the present situation, and also potentially interested readers abroad.  

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-8. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 


The Post

Watched “The Post”, finally:

With routine, but somehow a little listlessly staged. A heroic story about brave journalists who, as good patriots, defend the constitution and selflessly follow their calling. A little dose of feminism, but not too much and not really provocative. An entrepreneur with a conscience, a nice fairy tale element for the kids among the spectators! The most intriguing character in the real story, Ellsberg, who was the only one who risked everything, and who must have been terribly lonely even in his later life, being de facto ostracised from society, is assigned an extremely marginal role, compared to the historical truth. But of course that’s a Hollywood movie, in which the traitor will never be the real hero. All in all rather mendacious, as it is usual in such films.

The Post, U.S.A. 2017, 113 minutes; directed by: Steven Spielberg; produced by: Steven Spielberg, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Amy Pascal; written by: Liz Hannah, Josh Singer; with: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Rhys

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-8. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 


Пациентът България

Всеки, който последва политическа дискусия в социалните медии в тази страна, разбира че пациентът България е много болен.

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-8. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 


Wie man Minister wird

Neulich las ich auf Twitter, wie Spahn Minister wurde (natürlich ein Scherz):

Merkel: “So Jens, jetzt zu dir. Wo bringen wir dich denn unter? Hast du eigentlich was richtiges gelernt?” – 
Seehofer (niest) – 
Spahn: “Gesundheit!” – 
Merkel: “Na gut, meinetwegen.”

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-8. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.