Tag Archives: Bulgarian literature

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The reviews need to be unpublished and preferably in English.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.

 


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.

 


Старият феномен

Старият феномен. Човек го пише грешно от невежеството, а останалите следват инстинкта на стадото. Но все още се нарича “Канун на Лек Дукаджини” (Kanuni i Lekë Dukagjinit), а не “Канун на Лек Дукагини”. Жалко.

© 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.

 


изненада

аз съм изненадан, че един млад български поет, с когото дори веднъж споделях вечеря и приятелски разговор, и за когото винаги мислих добре, харесва пост на един психически небалансиран човек, който ме нарича свиня, без особена причина. но хей, това са кръговете на българските поети, така че всичко е възможно …

© 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 upcoming at Global Literature in Libraries Initiative

The Global Literature in Libraries Initiative will host a Bulgarian Literature Month in June! And while this is for me already a reason to beam with delight, I am even more pleased that I was invited to be the editor of this event! 

In practice this means that in June the blog of the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative website will publish on a daily basis book reviews of Bulgarian fiction, and of books related to Bulgaria, including non-fiction, by a wide range of contributors I hope. I will try to invite participants who can cover a big variety of topics and books for review, including literature from women, LGBT literature, books on history, culture, arts, etc. Additionally, I will try to squeeze in some other posts related to the topic, such as interviews with authors, publishers, translators and other relevant players in that field. So far I have already a lot of ideas and things will become more concrete very soon.

For a number of reviews of books I would like to include, I will contact some of the “usual suspects” I have in mind. But I am of course open, if one of my blogger colleagues wants to join in, or any other reader who thinks she/he can contribute something interesting. Eligible are texts that haven’t been published elsewhere. If you have questions, or if you want to write a contribution in the framework of Bulgarian Literature Month, please send me a message in the comment section of this blog post or at th@mytwostotinki.com.  

Thanks to Rachel Hildebrandt (just nominated for the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translation Prize!) and to Karen Van Drie from Global Literature in Libraries Initiative for giving me this opportunity – I feel honored! 

These words from the mission statement of GLLI I wholeheartedly support:

“The Global Literature in Libraries Initiative strives to raise the visibility of world literature for adults and children at the local, national and international levels. We intend to do so by facilitating close and direct collaboration between translators, librarians, publishers, editors, and educators, because we believe that these groups in collaboration are uniquely positioned to help libraries provide support and events to engage readers of all ages in a library framework that explores and celebrates literature from around the world.

We want to increase the visibility of international works in English translation so that more readers can enjoy the amazing diversity in these books and the perspectives they present. And we would like to do this by increasing cooperation between literary translators, international literature advocates, and librarians, who are already experts at guiding readers to new titles. Whether you are a children’s librarian or a YA blogger, a rural library director or a teacher at a large urban school with a diverse student population, we would welcome your insights as we explore collaborative opportunities to encourage readers to explore beyond the boundaries of their own culture and language.”  

I will keep you posted!

© 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.

 

 

 

 


New Social Poetry from Bulgaria

There are not really a lot of poetry collections or anthologies by Bulgarian authors available in English. Therefore I take the opportunity to let those readers with an interest in poetry, or in Bulgarian literature, know that these days a new anthology with poetry by contemporary authors from Bulgaria has seen the light.  

New Social Poetry: The Anthology, translated by Christopher Buxton, is comprised of texts by a wide range of authors, some of them well-known in Bulgaria since decades, some of them very young and at the beginning of their poetic journey. The following authors participate in the anthology:  Zlatomir Zlatanov, Alexander Nikolov, Ani Ilkov, Atanas Petrov, Vania Valkova, Ventsislav Arnaoudov, Violeta Zlatareva, Vladimir Sabourín, Gancho Petrishki, Dilyana Parvanova, Ileana Stoyanova, Kiril Vassilev, Kristina Krumova, Marco Vidal, Michaela Angelova, Nikolaj Bojkov, Nikolay Fenerski, Plamena Girginova, Rositsa Bakalova, Ruzha Velcheva, Teodora Taneva, Thomas Hübner, Christina Vassileva. The title of the anthology refers to a literary movement that was founded 2016 in Sofia, and to the literary journal of the same name.  

I should mention in this context that the initiator of New Social Poetry, Vladimir Sabourin, recently published a book that deals with the origins of this literary movement: Towards a New Social Poetry: Aesthetico-political Theses (also translated by Christopher Buxton), an interesting and controversial essay, whose core, the Manifesto for New Social Poetry created quite an uproar in literary circles in Bulgaria, mainly because it was considered as a frontal attack against the literary establishment in Bulgaria and a type of literature that the author refers to as “lifestyle literature”. 

Alexander Nikolov, Atanas Petrov, Vania Valkova, Ivan Marinov, Kristina Krumova,  Ventsislav Arnaoudov, Vladimir Sabourín, Nikolay Fenerski, Christina Vassileva (eds.): New Social Poetry: The Anthology, translated by Christopher Buxton, CreateSpace 2018

Vladimir Sabourin: Towards a New Social Poetry: Aesthetico-political Theses,      translated by Christopher Buxton, CreateSpace 2018 

Both books are available at Amazon in printed form, the latter also as e-book. 

© 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.

 


“Es gibt keine wahre Liebe ohne Intellektualität!“

Das erste Buch, das wir – meine Co-Verlegerin Elitsa Osenska und ich – seinerzeit im Rhizome-Verlag auf bulgarisch herausgebracht haben, ist jetzt auch auf deutsch erschienen:

“SchrödingERs Katze” von Milena Nikolova (mit Illustrationen von Victor Muhtarov, Tita Kojcheva und Sava Muhtarov), und zwar im eta-Verlag, Berlin. 

Der bekannte Literaturkritiker, Übersetzer und Autor Robin Detje schreibt über das Buch:

„Milena Nikolova schlägt alle Warnungen in den Wind. Die Menschen wollen nur Gefühle? Man darf sie nicht mit Klugheit verschrecken? Man darf nicht zu viel wollen? Diese Katze will alles: Witz und Wissenschaft, Verspieltheit ohne Gnade, bis zum Kurzschluss der Erkenntnis. Virtuos dekonstruiert das Langgedicht die große Lüge von der Feindschaft zwischen Kopf und Bauch: Es gibt keine wahre Liebe ohne Intellektualität!“

Für uns war es ein Glücksfall, unsere verlegerische Tätigkeit mit einem solch aussergewöhnlich schönen, verspielten, wunderbaren Buch beginnen zu können.

Wir wünschen der Autorin, dem deutschen Verlag und allen Beteiligten ganz viel Erfolg mit dem Buch!

Wer dieser Tage die Buchmesse in Leipzig besucht, sollte unbedingt beim eta-Verlag vorbeischauen, der auch andere interessante bulgarische Autoren im Programm hat.

Am 16. März, 19.00, stellen die Autorin Milena Nikolova und Petya Lund, die engagierte Verlegerin des eta-Verlags, das Buch im Cafe Unkraut, Wolfgang-Heinze-Str. 21, 04277 Leipzig (Süd), vor.

Am 18. März, 15.30, folgt dann eine weitere Veranstaltung direkt auf der Messe, ebenfalls mit Autorin und Verlegerin (Ort: Literaturcafé, Halle 4, Stand B600).

Sehr empfehlenswert! 

Milena Nikolova: SchrödingErs Katze: Ein subatomares Liebesgedicht in Echtzeit (Illustrationen: Victor Muhtarov, Tita Kojcheva, Sava Muhtarov), eta-Verlag, Berlin 2018

 

Die bulgarische Ausgabe kann in jeder guten Buchhandlung in Bulgarien erworben werden, oder auch direkt beim Verlag (mail@rhizome-bg.com).

© 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.
© eta-Verlag (Photo 1), 2018
© Rhizome Publishing and Chris Enchev (Photo 2), 2016-2018
© Victor Muhtarov, Tita Kojcheva, Sava Muhtarov (Photo 1 and 2), 2016-2018
© Robin Detje (Quote), 2018

 

 


In Ruse with Elias Canetti

In the first volume of his autobiography Die gerettete Zunge (The Tongue Set Free), Elias Canetti writes about his early childhood in the Bulgarian city of Ruse – Canetti uses throughout the book the old name Rustchuk -:

“Everything that I experienced later, had already happened once in Rustchuk…On any one day you could hear seven or eight languages.”

Despite having spent only his first six years in the city of his birth – the family emigrated to Manchester in 1911 and Canetti came back only once for a visit in 1915 – Ruse and its unique multilingual and multicultural atmosphere at that time left a lifelong mark on the future writer.

A small book in Bulgarian language with the title In Ruse with Elias Canetti (В Русе с Елиас Канети) sheds additional light on this early period of Canetti’s life, family background and social surrounding.

In the middle of the 19th century Ruse had developed into a thriving city. Located at the Danube it had by then attracted a lot of trading activities and the port of Ruse was the main artery through which goods were imported and exported from and to the whole region. An additional boost to the economic development was the fact that Ruse had a fast-growing Jewish (Sephardic) community which was one of the driving forces for Ruse’s modernization; this together with a general economic boom in the then revived Bulgarian state (until the Russian-Turkish War 1877-78 it had been part of the Ottoman Empire for almost five hundred years) made Ruse the then most modern and truly European city in Bulgaria.  

The authors give us interesting information about the origin and growth of the Jewish community in Ruse and trace back also the family background of Canetti’s parents. Grandfather Elias Canetti (the namesake of little Elias) came from Adrianopel (Edirne) to Ruse and became a successful trader, first with his partner in Constantinople, later on his own. He reigned his firm and his family like a benevolent despot, a true family man that cared a lot for his grandchildren and particularly his oldest grandson Elias; but at the same time he expected that his sons gave up on their own plans and would be part of the future family business with branches in all other important Bulgarian cities.

For Jacques, young Elias’ father, this was a source of permanent inner conflicts – he was a talented violinist and dreamed of a career as a musician in a chamber quartet. Also Mathilde, his wife and Elias’ mother, was a talented amateur musician (she played the piano); there are photos that show the parents as musicians in a public concert in Ruse. Another photo shows Jacques, then a dashing young man, in a carnival costume – both parents who had spent years in their youth in Vienna loved the theatre and literature, things for which Grandfather Canetti had not much interest and which he might have considered at best as harmless hobbies, but as nothing serious.

Beside this latent conflict between Jacques and Elias Senior, another quite open conflict clouded the childhood of the future Nobel Prize winner. Mathilde’s family, the Arditis, were against the marriage of their youngest daughter with Jacques Canetti. The Arditis, one of the oldest and high-ranking Sephardic families could trace back their origin until the 13th century when some of their ancestors were astronomers and doctors at the courts of the Kings Alfonso IV and Pedro IV. After 1492, the family settled in Livorno and later in the Ottoman Empire, where several of their members became famous rabbis, kabbalists and scientists; the Arditis were among the first Jewish families in Ruse and looked down on Elias Senior and his family as upstarts, who had just arrived from the Orient and were no match for the famous and cultured Arditi family. One of the remaining (and traumatic) memories of his early childhood in Ruse was for Canetti a visit in Grandfather Arditi’s house. This grandfather, who never paid much attention to Elias and never gave him a present, asked his grandson on one occasion, which of his grandfathers he loved more – Grandpa Canetti or Grandpa Arditi. When the poor boy said “Both!”, he was immediately called a liar and hypocrite by his maternal grandfather. 

One of the most interesting chapters for me was the one on the artistic talent of Canetti’s parents, especially that if his father. Ruse had quite an active social and cultural life, and much of it was initiated and kept alive mainly by its Jewish citizens. Ruse has a beautiful theatre that regarding its size and architecture could be as well in Vienna or Budapest. During Ruse’s best times, many famous international troupes visited the Danubian city, the same goes for many musicians and orchestras. There were amateur theatre groups and concerts that raised funds for the education of poor but talented Jewish children, the Bnai Brith Loge played an important role in the social fabric of the Jewish community, and there were also some of the first Zionist organisations in Bulgaria which had their headquarters in Ruse. Other chapters cover the donations made by Canetti’s grandfather and father, the efforts of Jews from Ruse to support the war effort in the Balkan Wars and WWI, either as soldiers or by financial support. Another short chapter describes how Canetti learned some folk rhymes and stories from young Bulgarian peasant girls, stories he later found again in a German book about Bulgarian fairy tales and folk stories and that left obviously a deep impression on him. Philately, the role of the different newspapers in the Canetti household (in Ladino and in German), and the comet Halley are also covered by short but instructive chapters.

The Orator is the title of the longest chapter of the book, and it deals with Canetti’s relationship with one of the most colorful members of the Canetti-Arditi family, Elias’ cousin Benjamin ‘Bubi’ Arditi (Canetti calls him ‘Bernhard’ in a letter addressed to him that is reproduced in the book). Bubi, just a few years older than his cousin, was for some time a strong influence for Canetti and he is explicitly mentioned in the second volume of Canetti’s autobiography Die Fackel im Ohr (The Torch in My Ear).

After Canetti’s parents moved to Manchester with their three sons (Elias, Nissim and Georges), Elias saw his cousin during both visits in Bulgaria; in Summer 1915 in Ruse and in 1924 in Sofia. During this period Bubi had became a fervent Zionist and public speaker. Elias was so impressed by his cousin who engaged himself with all his energy in something much bigger than himself, a cause for the Jewish community, that we find traces of The Orator also in Masse und Macht and in his Aufzeichnungen. For a short time, young Elias seemed also to have considered to become a Zionist. Bulgarian Jews were in those days frequently targeted by the terrorist IMRO (today this extremist right-wing political party that is still proud of its criminal and antisemitic origin and which propagates quite openly violence against ethnic minorities and refugees is part of the Bulgarian Government!), that openly threatened to kill those who didn’t pay hefty sums to them; blackmail, collection of “protection” money and contract killings were the main financial sources of this “patriotic” group – today, being part of the Bulgarian government, they use means that are only slightly more subtle – that was in its high time considered the most ruthless group of assassins in Europe.  – When Canetti fell in Vienna under the spell of an even greater orator, Karl Kraus, this interest in Zionist politics faded away completely. 

The book reproduces several letters of Canetti to his cousin Bubi and to people in Bulgaria who got in touch with him in his later life. He found touching words for his attachment to Ruse and the importance of the city for himself and his development as a writer.

This small book is not only very informative, it is also an important document of the renewed connection of the writers’ birthplace with this extraordinary son of Ruse. Canetti’s daughter visited Ruse for the first time in 1998 and initiated together with Penka Angelova from the University Veliko Tarnovo and other supporters the International Elias Canetti Society, which is now very active to promote the literary work of Elias Canetti, and the values for which he stood. The three engravings that show Old Ruse and that were among Canetti’s most treasured belongings, are now back in Ruse – a donation by his daughter. And there is a chance that not only the former building of the trading house Elias Canetti (Senior) in Slavyanski Street 14 in Ruse will be revived, but maybe also that the author’s birthplace at Gurko Street 13 will be turned into a museum one day. (Interestingly, the English Wikipedia page about Canetti, claims that the building at Slavyanska is his birthplace – a building that the author has rarely ever entered, since it was an office and a warehouse, not a residential building.)   

While the book provided me with interesting, new to me information and is written with real love and devotion to the subject, I have to mention two points with which I had a problem.

The book contains many reproductions of photos and other documents; that’s a good thing since it adds considerably to the quality of the given information and makes the book even more interesting and readable. However – and this really unforgivable – the book mentions absolutely no sources of any of the photos and documents, and therefore also not of the owners of the copyright of these illustrations. That is highly disappointing and doesn’t correspond with the standard of a book publication; it is even infringing the copyright – something that is considered in Bulgaria unfortunately as no offence at all by many people. For me it is a question of honesty and intellectual integrity not to disregard in such a shameful way the intellectual property of others, and it is a real pity that such an otherwise recommendable book has such a very serious flaw. 

I had also a problem with a question regarding a detail in the chapter devoted to The Orator. Bubi Arditi, a lifelong supporter of the revisionist Zionist Vladimir Zeev Jabotinsky, the Irgun, and other right-wing groups, was also politically involved with the last Czar Simeon II (and later Prime Minister Simeon Sakskoburggotski).

Simeon launched a long time ago a campaign to depict his father Boris III as the “saviour” of the Bulgarian Jews during WWII, a claim that has been a long time ago discarded by serious historians. In the contrary, Boris III was the main Bulgarian responsible for the extermination of the Jews in the annexed territories in Macedonia and Thracia. I don’t want to go into the details here regarding this topic, but it is important to know that Bubi Arditi wrote a book that supports Simeon’s revisionist theory.

After referring Arditi’s position that Boris III was the “saviour” of the Bulgarian Jews and his blaming the “Jewish communists in Bulgaria” that they are liars, the book claims surprisingly that Canetti shared his cousin’s opinion on this question. But while there can be no doubt about the fact that Canetti rejected the communist system in Bulgaria with harsh words, he was never a supporter of the thesis that Boris III was the “saviour” of the Bulgarian Jews and the reproduced letter proves – if anything – the opposite. The rather ambiguous wording of the authors in this particular context leaves room for the interpretation that they think that Canetti shared his cousin’s opinion. But Canetti was never ever a supporter of revisionist ideologues and I was rather annoyed by this passage in an otherwise very recommendable text.   

P.S. In case you wonder, the French actor Pierre Arditi is also a member of the Canetti-Arditi family. His father Georges and Elias were cousins.

.В Русе с Елиас Канети

Veselina Antonova / Ivo Zheynov: In Ruse with Elias Canetti, MD Elias Canetti, Ruse 2016

Elias Canetti: The Tongue Set Free, Granta Books, London 1999, translated by Joachim Neugroschel 

© 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.

In the Shadow of the Moon

It is interesting how my reading patterns and interests are changing over the years; for example I am reading nowadays much more poetry and short prose as I used to. The short and the very short prose is a little bit of a step child of modern literature. It seems that today everyone wants to read (and write) novels, particularly long novels. But I prefer a small collection of short short stories over most long novels, especially when the prose is crisp and the stories tickle my imagination. Such as most of the pieces in the book In the Shadow of the Moon by Assen Assenov, a book that is only available in a bi-lingual German/Bulgarian edition (original title: Im Mondschatten/В сянката на луната) .

Assenov, born 1942 in Varna, lives since the 1970’s in Germany. For many years, he was the managing editor of the renowned German literary journal Litfass. Litfass was in the last decades of the existence of two German states one of the few outlets that was open to writers from East and West Germany, and therefore it was an important place of communication between writers and intellectuals of both Germanies. Assenov, who works also as a literary translator, published several collections of his own short prose. Marcel Reich-Ranicki, Germany’s most famous (and most feared) literary critic wrote favourably about Assenov’s prose.

Some of the prose pieces (most of them are less than one page long, the longest cover up to four pages) are focused on (auto-)biographical experiences of the author’s alter ego Velin: the description of a journey to Monte Carlo, a holiday with his future wife, a meeting with her years after they have divorced, a letter his ex-wife is writing him after her new partner has died in an accident. But while the events sound ordinary, even banal at times, there is always an element of surprise, something unexpected that stands for the contingency of life and that may in some cases even come as a shock to the readers; such as in the story Until Noon (Bis Mittag), in which a housewife is making the breakfast for her husband, cleans the dishes after he leaves for work, waters the flowers, deposes the garbage, cleans the shoes, dusts the book shelves, until at noon she opens the window and jumps…Most relationships that are described in the book are unhappy and we as readers see them frequently from the viewpoint of one of the involved parties (like in Next Year, in Novel or in Waiting). Dreams are in some cases the basis of stories (such as Winnetou, or Help); the life of the emigrant between two countries and cultures is an implicit topic of many of the texts. Some use the form of the anecdote, some that of the poem; more than a few drift into another, fantastic reality and reminded me sometimes of Kafka (In Line, or Old House). Writing, one of my favourite texts in the collection, may be considered as the credo of its author:

“Word by word I pick up my life. – How many stories do we have to live through, until we make an experience? How many times must something resonate in our consciousness until you realize it, until you understand it. Until you describe it! – I live in a world, in which almost nothing of what surrounds me, was surrounding me during my childhood. Not the people, not the smells, not the language. What I wanted, I have achieved. But it was not, what I needed. – …Locked into a circle of stories, of a Bulgarian mother, an Austrian wife, a German daughter. Stories that define me. The wish to bring order into my life by writing, to break the circle, to finish the stories.” (My translation) 

Assen Assenov is virtually unknown in the English-speaking world, but a collection of his short prose would find its readers!

Assen Assenov: Im Mondschatten – В сянката на луната, Sonm, Sofia 2002

© 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.