Category Archives: Opinion

“The 21st Century Greatest Novels”

The BBC asked a number of well-known literary critics to name “The 21st Century greatest novels”. And just as I imagined it: all the 12 books on the top of the list are written in English!
 
That says little about “The 21st Century greatest novels”, but a lot about the state of (mono-) culture in the English-speaking countries, where hardly three percent of the published books are works translated from other languages.
© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-7. 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.

“Expats”

FB Groups/Forums – most of them seem to be rather futile efforts. I just left a group called “Foreigners in Sofia & Friends” which “has the goal to connect all the expats in Sofia and their friends and aims to be a self-help Community where members are supporting each other.”

I left because:

– I am not an expat – I am a migrant. (Many of the smug “expats” will not understand that remark, I am rather sure.)

– I am already well connected with my wonderful Bulgarian and a few other migrant friends, and don’t have the particular wish to connect “with all expats in Sofia.”

– I don’t find it very appealing that on the few occasions I wrote a comment to a post in this group, I was verbally abused by a number of hardcore resident expat trolls for no obvious reason.

– I don’t find it very appealing to read in too many threads that Bulgarians are dumb and rude.

– I don’t find the overwhelming number of posts appealing that could have easily be answered by using a simple search engine.

– I don’t find it particularly appealing that the vast majority of posts are questions like “where can I find an English-speaking N.N. in Sofia?”

– I don’t find it very appealing when simple questions such as “can someone recommend me a Latin American restaurant in Sofia” are almost exclusively answered by people who haven’t obviously read or understood the question (or why would they recommend Iranian, Iraqi, Chinese restaurants instead of answering the question?)

– I am tired of reading again and again how terrible Sofia and Bulgaria are. If you feel like that, what are you doing here? A practical lesson in masochism?

No big deal. It’s just: these kind of forums are nor for me.

They are for – “expats”!

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-7. 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 Curse of Social Media

The curse of “Social Media“:

People talk and gossip endlessly about each other and communicate very little with each other.

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-7. 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.

#trumpspeak

Lies are now called “alternative facts“.

#trumpspeak

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-7. 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.

News from Retardistan (9)

The Bulgarian Ministry of Culture in Sofia hosts an exhibition room that is very suitable for art exhibitions, and indeed it could be a good, central place to showcase artworks by various contemporary artists.

I remember that the last time I paid a visit to the premises, there was an exhibition with works of Vezhdi Razhidov, a sculptor and painter of modest talent. What annoyed me was not that such a – in my opinion – unremarkable artist was given exhibition space in the Ministry of Culture, but the fact that this artist is – the Bulgarian Minister of Culture himself. He uses this space obviously to promote himself and thus trying to increase the market value of his artworks by exhibiting in the Ministry that he seems to consider as his quasi-private property. That a Minister is using government resources or even premises of the government to promote his own business activities would cause a major scandal, and even investigations by the relevant authorities about misuse of taxpayers’ money in probably any other country; there can be no doubt that such a Minister could not remain in office after such a blatant show of disrespect of elementary rules of political integrity and misuse of governmental resources for private profit-oriented purposes. But there was no major protest, no investigation, no replacement of the Minister.

Some time later, the big opening exhibition of the expensively renovated former Museum of Foreign Art (now part of the National Gallery) took place. As I wrote in my blog post about this exhibition, there were quite a lot of major complaints to make about this exhibition. One of them was related to the fact, that the only living artist representing the period after 1989 in this exhibition was (with two of his works), the Minister of Culture, Mr. Vezhdi Razhidov. Again, the host used his governmental position to promote his artwork, in order to increase his market value. Again, there was no major protest, no investigation, no replacement of the Minister. 

One of these days, I have been again accidentally passing by the Ministry of Culture. And what do I see? The windows of the exhibition room are decorated right now with three big posters that advertise three art exhibitions of works of Minister Razhidov. Again, the host used his governmental position to promote his artwork, in order to increase his market value. Again, there was no major protest, no investigation, no replacement of the Minister. 

I guess these small but symptomatic observations give you an idea regarding the state of cultural policy in Bulgaria.

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-6. 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.

News from Retardistan (8)

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” That’s the credo of the overwhelming part of the Bulgarian anti-Communists – or possibly the part that makes the most noise. They seem to repeat this sentence to themselves like a mantra again and again.

You are a racist, an anti-Semite, a xenophobe, a revisionist, a fascist, a Nazi, a paid mouthpiece of a media tycoon, a scumbag that sends people with other opinions, or that oppose your lies and propaganda, death threats (either personally or via some of your more “robust” friends, who will let your enemy know that they will shoot him in the neck, or alternatively “break every single bone of his body”) – all is forgiven and forgotten as long as you are a good anti-Communist that condones the murder of a Russian diplomat and who is waiting rather hopefully for the assassination of the Russian Ambassador in Bulgaria, in order to organize a big feast and celebrate the future killer with poems. Dozens of “likes” in social media for your gleeful murder apology will be the consequence in Bulgaria, whereas in pluralistic and more democratic countries with a functioning law enforcement the penal code and the application of its instruments would be the result of such an outburst of depravity.

As long as the democratic anti-Communists don’t draw a clear line between themselves and SA-type “intellectuals” of the extremist right that would gladly practice any kind of violence against their enemies, if they just wouldn’t be such pathetic and impotent cowards, as long as the democratic right doesn’t draw this line, there will be no hope for the development of a democratic and pluralistic society in Bulgaria, and the never-ending story of “transition” and execution of the power by mafia groups will go on and on…

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-6. 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.

News from Retardistan (7)

Колко хора в България знаят толкова повече като федералната полиция в Германия за престъплението в Берлин! И колко много шум и отвратителни коментари, когато спазването на жертвите ще изисква да се мълчи само за един миг, а не да се разпространява все повече и повече пропаганда на омраза …

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-6. 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.

Gloom

What’s wrong with the world these days?

I think I am moving to Mongolia.

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-6. 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.

 


Everything has a price

Today I bought five Bulgarian second-hand books at a book stall at Slaveykov Square in Sofia, all of them with personal dedications of the respective authors to the previous owner of these books, X., himself an important Bulgarian author and very influential person in the literary scene in Bulgaria.

The enthusiasm of the dedications, the evocations of friendship, respect, brotherly love by the authors to their colleague X. contrast very nicely with the more than nonchalant way, by which he got rid of these dedication copies, at a retail price of two leva (approximately one Euro) per piece. 

Everything has a price. The friendship, respect, brotherly love among authors can be bought sometimes at Slaveykov Square for two leva.

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-6. 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.

 


Nobel Prize for Literature 2016 for Bob Dylan

Robert Allen Zimmerman, a.k.a. Bob Dylan, will receive the Nobel Prize for Literature 2016. Congratulations!

I am really amazed by the echo of this news in the electronic and print media and in the social networks. Since a few days, the choice of Dylan by the Nobel Committee in Stockholm and the following discussion, the question if Dylan has “deserved” the prize or not, and why not a “real” author has received the award, has side-lined much more important events in the world.

And since everyone did it, I feel somehow also entitled to give my two stotinki regarding the question of the “worthiness” of this years’ Nobel Prize Winner.

Just for clarification: I grew up with Bob Dylan’s songs, I love and adore him, and without the shadow of a doubt he is one of the most important living cultural icons on this planet. I am not saying more, just this: Bob Dylan is in a way larger than life, and for sure also much more relevant than an award or the people who decided to give him this prize according to criteria that are usually difficult to understand.

Let me say a few words about the criteria on which the decision for the award is based. This prize is not a kind of “Writer’s World Championship” where the best author with the best literary work is supposed to win. The surprise of the public that Dylan has won this year comes in my opinion from the fact that few people are aware of the criteria. The testament of Alfred Nobel that defines the criteria that should be the basis for the award, is very unclear. The two main reasons to award the prize to an author seem to be a certain literary value of the work, and the ideal/idealistic direction of the work – again: this is a very vague and in the original Swedish very unclear formulation; are there any interesting or valuable works of literature that are not idealistic?

Are those people wrong who argue that – without being disrespectful to Bob Dylan – the Nobel Committee should have awarded the prize to someone who devoted his life to produce “serious” literature, not a singer-songwriter? I admit, these people have a point, but they missed what I said in the previous paragraph: this award is NOT primarily a literary excellence award, and therefore such an argumentation (Dylan vs. “real” authors) is futile.

Should we take the Nobel Prize for Literature for so important as most of us obviously do? I think not. It comes with a lot of money – good for the author! -, but it comes also with a lot of obligations (speeches, interviews, requests, media attention, etc.) that make it more difficult for the prize winner to produce anything meaningful after he/she got the award, simply because it will be much more difficult after the award to focus on his/her work. So it is a very mixed blessing, but I am sure Bob Dylan will survive also that.

The main reason why I am not so interested in this prize anymore is the very long list with decisions that have obviously nothing to do with the literary value of the author and his/her work. A committee that awards Mommsen instead of Cechov; Prud’homme instead of Tolstoy; Benavente instead of Kafka; Pearl Buck instead of Joyce; Echegaray instead of Proust; Heyse instead of Henry James; Eucken instead of Musil; Spitteler instead of Edith Wharton; Quasimodo instead of Cavafy; Churchill instead of William Carlos Williams; Scholochov (for a book that was written not by him) instead of Babel; Solzhenitsyn instead of Shalamov, Avram Terz, or Herling; Cela instead of Borges or Nabokov; or Neruda, the NKWD henchman and member of the Trotsky assassination team, instead of Mandelstam, Sutskever, Celan, or Ingeborg Bachmann? I just don’t think very highly of the competences of a committee that comes to such decisions. 

Another reason why I am upset about the choices of the Stockholm Committee is the quota according to certain criteria that obviously exist. Or statements like that of a very influential member of the Committee who bluntly stated years ago, that American literature and American authors (from the United States) are in general uninteresting and shallow and not worthy to receive a Nobel Prize, and that as long as he is in charge never ever will such an author be considered for the prize. It seems that the Nobel Committee wanted to say this year: “OK, we cannot any longer ignore American literature, and Bob Dylan was the best author we could find. Leonard Cohen would have been of course the much better poet among the singer-songwriters, but you know, this year we had to give it to an U.S. author.” – Obviously, this award is also meant as a slap in the face of all important living American authors, as Aleksandar Hemon pointed out correctly.

The Nobel Prize for Literature has a lot to do with (literature) politics, and comparatively little with literature. The discussion about the Nobel-worthiness (or un-worthiness) of Dylan is therefore a rather pointless matter. The Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded a few times to authors who deserved it, and many times to people who were just second-rate authors. Therefore, we shouldn’t consider the award as something necessarily related to literary excellence.

If Bob Dylan, a life-long pacifist, should accept the Prize that is funded with money that comes from the royalties for the invention of deadly weapons, is another question. He doesn’t need the money, so it would be great to see him standing true to some of his early convictions and politely refuse the Nobel Prize.

The best comment I read on the Nobel Prize for Literature this year, because it is making fun of the Committee in Stockholm that considers itself as oh-so-important, comes from Gary Shteyngart. On Twitter he commented: “I totally get the Nobel committee. Reading books is hard.”

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-6. 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.