Tag Archives: Bulgarian literature

Why I rarely publish negative reviews

Since I started this blog, I have reviewed approximately 120 books here; I share these reviews also in Goodreads and in Facebook. But I read much more books, which means that I am by far not writing about all the books I am in fact reading.

The reasons for this are mainly the following:

Reviewing takes some time; if you want to write something more than just a few superficial remarks, something meaningful, you need to spend a comparatively big amount of time – time I sometimes don’t have, or time I prefer to invest in something to me more valuable in that moment – for example in reading, travelling, working on my actual book project, or spending quality time with people that matter to me! And imagine, I have a job too, haha.

Furthermore, a lot of the books I am reading are not really creating this urge in me to write about them. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe the book is kind of dull and boring, or it is more or less ok, but nothing special and I have already forgotten the plot after a short time, or the topic is too special to be of any interest for a wider audience. So what’s the point to bother someone with my thoughts in such cases?

A special case are awe-inspiring books, books where I feel that at this moment they are beyond my capacities as a reviewer – recent example: Dostoevsky’s Demons. I would need to write a 10,000 words text if I wanted to review it, otherwise I would have to neglect important aspects of the book as I understand it. And if I will ever be able to express my limitless admiration of and fascination with Hans Henny Jahnn’s strange behemoth of a novel River without Banks – a book that literally changed my life and my view of life in general – in an adequate way remains a big question for me. (I reviewed the first part here; the biggest part of the novel was never translated in English.)   

The fourth category are the hopelessly bad, crappy, worthless books that you come across sometimes. I am not particularly inclined to write reviews about books I didn’t enjoy or that I even strongly dislike. In general, I prefer to be silent in such cases instead of wasting valuable time to indulge in negative feelings. In general, I believe that I am usually much better in positively raving about the qualities of a book than to give it the thump-down. Therefore, only about 5% of my published reviews so far are negative; if I would write a review about every single book I am reading, this percentage would be much higher, maybe more like 25-30%.

So, in which cases of this fourth category I am nevertheless making the effort to publish my negative opinion about a book? There are of course, as I see in retrospect now, a few reasons:

There are books and authors that have acquired the status of a “classic”, or at least of being extremely popular. While I have no problem with popular books and authors in general, I have experienced a couple of times the situation that I read a book that was praised as a “masterpiece”, or even as “one of the best novels of the 20th century” – and it turned out to be awfully bad from whatever standpoint you look at it. That’s what I call the “Emperor’s-New-Clothes syndrome”, and in such a blatant case as this one I feel obliged to raise my finger and voice my objection. This specific book and author get in my opinion much more attention than would be deserved if we look just at the – according to me hardly existing! – literary quality of the work; it is more a result of the successful efforts of the author during his lifetime to turn himself into a brand, than of the genuine quality of his writing that he occupies such a prominent place in literary history, and this book is praised by so many people although it is obviously no good at all (admittedly not all books by this author are as bad as the one I reviewed). The purpose of my review is to be a small contribution to a re-assessment of this specific book, and thus maybe also to a re-assessment of other, much better novels published during that period by authors who were not so good in self-marketing, but maybe better writers with some meaningful message in their works, written in a much better prose.

Another category of books are those by contemporary authors, who – supported by an aggressive marketing, a devoted group of friends in the media, and a similarly devoted crowd of “groupies” in social media – blow the horn and thus make a lot of noise around their silly, shallow, obnoxious books and turn this kind of attention into a mass phenomenon, and in extreme cases even into a movement that shares certain elements with a sect. That’s what I call the “One-million-flies-cannot-go-wrong syndrome”, and again I find myself every now and then in a position that I simply must voice my objection against such a book, and may it even be in a very succinct way, like in this case. (This review by a fellow book blogger sums it up very nicely in more detail what is wrong with this book and its author.)

Closely related to the last category are books that are lacking a basic quality a book (and its author) should have in my opinion: intellectual integrity. When the content and the message of a book is in stark contrast with the personal behaviour of its author, it is clearly a case of hypocrisy and lack of integrity. Intellectual impostors like the author of this book, should be always exposed.

Some books simply make me angry. A lot of people like this book and similar one’s by the same author – but to me it is obvious that the book is just an alibi for something else. This author makes his living by providing arousal templates for the needs of a very “special” audience. His sick anal-sadistic torture fantasies are poorly written, and as a reviewer I really hope that I prevent a few readers from exposing themselves to this revolting stuff.  

Very young and inexperienced authors will be usually treated with kindness by me; most bad books I read by such authors will be never reviewed here. In exceptional cases, when for example the publisher is to blame for not editing a book by an inexperienced author at all (and thus doing him a very bad service), like in this case, I will make an exception. Not because I want to slam the poor author for his shortcomings, but because I find it unethical when some publishers don’t protect authors from seriously damaging themselves.

Another exception are cases (like this one) in which a young author who in my opinion lacks literary talent is “made” by a publisher, in co-operation with key figures of the literary scene; a system that manipulates the public, arranges that such an author gets literary awards, and plenty of media attention that will in turn help to generate additional money and influence for this person in the literary scene, damages the chances of other young authors with real literary talent (but maybe with less talent for self-promotion), and even corrupts the readers and potential young authors, because a system that systematically ignores literary merit must in the long run have negative repercussions on the literary life in general, especially when the book market in that country is very small. Also in these cases, a reviewer should speak out and make it clear when such a “hyped” book has no literary value, and is obviously more a media or lifestyle phenomenon than serious literature.  

Hey, before I forget it – I know some authors personally. Some of them are nice people, others not so much. It is just like in all other spheres of life. Would the fact that I am in good or maybe not so good terms with someone influence my judgement (as imperfect as it may be) regarding the quality of their respective writing?

The answer is obvious: never!

© 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.

Another case of the “Emperor’s new clothes”

Even a well-meaning reader can hardly consider this book as something else as an immature and narcissistic collection of clichés and of not very cleverly disguised and recycled “findings” from the works of other poets (and songwriters). I feel pity for the young author. If his aim was to make himself a name as a poet, then he was obviously ill-advised to get this rather embarrassing book published at all.

I wouldn’t have bothered to comment on this book if it wasn’t for the extreme media hype around it and its author in his home country. Another case of the “Emperor’s new clothes” in my opinion.

Нощта е действие

Илиян Любомиров: Нощта е действие (Iliyan Lyobumirov: Noshtta e dejstvie), Janet-45, Plovdiv 2014

© 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.

Vasil Praskov: feiertage

feiertage

am 1. mai
lesen die anarchisten tschechow

die dame führt ihr hündchen vor
trägt einen beutel für die scheisse

am 1. juni bringe ich mich um

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празници

на 1 май
анархистите четат чехов

дамата извежда кученцето
носи пликче за лайната

на 1 юни се самоубивам

 

Übersetzung aus dem Bulgarischen von Thomas Hübner

Васил Прасков. Слабини

Vasil Praskov: Slabini (Васил Прасков: Слабини), Pergament, Sofia 2015

© 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.

Khairi Hamdan: Entlang der Mauern des Schweigens

Entlang der Mauern des Schweigens und der Ewigkeit
kämpfen die Buchstaben gegen das Vergessen an,
das die Namen der Toten versiegelt,
nachdem der Wind ihr Leben
davongetragen hat.

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Покрай стените на мълчанието и вечността
буквите се борят срещу забравата,
запечатват имената на мъртвите,
след като вятърът е отнел
живота им.

Übersetzung aus dem Bulgarischen: Thomas Hübner

Хайри Хамдан: един живот не е достатъчен (Khairi Hamdan: ein leben ist nicht genug), Pergament, Sofia 2016

© 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.
© Hajri Hamdan and IK Pergament, 2016
 

Frisch aus der Druckerei

Die Rezensionsexemplare von “Germanii”, dem von mir übersetzten Gedichtband von Vladislav Hristov, sind da – und sie sehen gut aus!

No automatic alt text available.

Rezensenten und Blogger: bei Interesse an diesem neuen Gedichtband bitte melden! (mail@rhizome-bg.com) – Ein paar Besprechungsexemplare sind noch vorhanden.

© 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. 
© Photo: Elitsa Osenska, 2017

Vorankündigung: Vladislav Hristov – Germanii

Der Gedichtband “Germanii” des renommierten bulgarischen Dichters Vladislav Hristov erscheint in Kürze auf deutsch. Im Original erschien das Buch 2014 im Verlag Ergo in Sofia. Das Buch wurde von mir übersetzt, und ich bin natürlich ziemlich aufgeregt, meine erste längere Arbeit als Übersetzer bald in Buchform publiziert zu sehen.

Der Band bildet den Auftakt der Buchreihe “Stimmen aus Bulgarien”, in denen der Verlag Rhizome aus Sofia dem deutschsprachigen Lesepublikum bulgarische Literatur zeitgenössischer Autoren vorstellen wird. Diese Buchreihe wird von Elitsa Osenska und mir herausgegeben werden. Als zweites Buch ist ein Band mit Erzählungen von Jordanka Beleva geplant.

Vladislav Hristov wurde 1976 in Shumen, Bulgarien, geboren. Er lebt und arbeitet als Journalist und Photograph in Sofia.

Seine Gedichte wurden u.a. in den internationalen Literaturzeitschriften “Granta”, “Cider Press Review” und “Drunken Boat” veröffentlicht.

Er gewann zahlreiche Literaturpreise und Ehrungen: für Kurzprosa die Auszeichnung von LiterNet & eRunsMagazine (2007), den Nationalpreis für Haiku zu einem freien Thema (2010), den internationalen Haiku-Wettbewerb “Cherry blossom” (2011), und zwei der bedeutendsten bulgarischen Auszeichnungen für Dichtkunst – den Dobromir-Tonev-Preis (2015), und den Slavejkov-Preis (2015).

In drei aufeinanderfolgenden Jahren war er in der Rangliste der 100 kreativsten europäischen Haiku-Verfasser aufgeführt, und im Jahr 2016 fanden mehrere seiner Haiku Aufnahme in ein japanisches Universitätslehrbuch zum Thema.

Er ist Mitglied der “Haiku Foundation”. Seine Haiku sind u.a. in der Zeitschrift der Amerikanischen Haiku-Vereinigung “Frogpond”, in “World Haiku Review”, der Zeitschrift des Internationalen Haiku-Clubs, sowie in “Simply Haiku”, “The Heron’s Nest” und vielen anderen Zeitschriften veröffentlicht.

Im Jahr 2011 wurde eine Auswahl seiner Haiku von der deutschen Website “Haiku heute” und später in deren Jahrbuch publiziert.

Texte von Hristov sind in 16 Sprachen übersetzt. Auf bulgarisch liegen folgende Bücher von ihm vor: “Bilder von Kindern” (Kurzprosa, 2010), Enso (Gedichte, 2012 – nominiert für die höchste Auszeichnung für Dichtkunst in Bulgarien, den Ivan-Nikolov-Preis), “Phi” (Gedichte, 2013), “Germanii” (Gedichte, 2014) und “Countdown” (Gedichte, 2016). Ein Band mit Publizistik ist in Vorbereitung.

Eine kleine Kostprobe aus dem Band kann man hier finden.

Literaturkritiker, Rezensenten und Buchblogger, die das Buch besprechen wollen und ein Rezensionsexemplar zugesandt bekommen wollen, senden mir bitte eine Nachricht als Kommentar zu diesem Posting, am besten unter Angabe des Mediums, in dem die Rezension erscheinen soll. 

Weitere Informationen zum Buch mit genauem Erscheinungsdatum und Bestelldetails folgen bald an dieser Stelle in Kürze.

Der Buchumschlag stammt von Ivo Rafailov, der auch die bulgarische Originalausgabe gestaltet hat.

© 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.
© Ivo Rafailov, 2014-7 (Umschlaggraphik)
 

 


Georgi Markov – a footnote on a recent edition

I am reading right now (in Bulgarian) a three-volume edition of the essays of the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov, who is for me one of the most remarkable Eastern European intellectuals of the time between the end of WWII and the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Unfortunately he is in the West mainly known for the fact that he was assassinated in a rather bizarre way by a hit-man in the service of the Bulgarian State Security, and not for his work and the brilliant analysis of the Bulgarian and other regimes in Eastern Europe.

The edition contains many essays that are – according to the information in the books – published here for the first time in print, and it is remarkable how fresh and highly relevant these essays that are at least four decades old, are today. A fact that says also something very unpleasant about the situation in Bulgaria – still very much run by the networks of people with links to the former Bulgarian State Security and their underlings – and most other Eastern European countries.

The publisher, who brought recently among others also Varlam Shalamov, Yevgenia Ginzburg, and works of Alexander Solzhenitsyn to the Bulgarian readers, has to be praised for this deed.

However, I have also to mention that the footnotes are to me very annoying. While some of them are ridiculously inadequate – is it really necessary to try to explain in two lines who Thomas Mann or Pablo Picasso were, and does the fact that the publisher added these footnotes mean that this edition is intended for an audience that is missing even an elementary Bildung? -, others are inaccurate, and even manipulative.

One example: Pablo Neruda is described in a footnote as an author that was “occupied by communist ideas”, which is clearly a strong understatement; he was in reality a Stalinist hardliner and active GPU/NKWD agent with blood on his hands; he played a big role in the Trotsky assassination, and allegedly some others, and he personally took care of deleting non-Stalinist leftists from the list of people that would be granted a place on a rescue ship and visa to Chile, people desperately trying to leave unoccupied France in 1940; Neruda knew perfectly well that his selection (I am almost tempted to write Selektion here) was in fact a death sentence for almost all of them, executed either by the Nazis, or by the assassination squads of Stalin (Victor Serge has written in detail about such murderous “intellectuals” as Neruda). The footnote about Neruda is in this context extremely misleading.

Another example is Günter Grass, who according to the footnote was a “far-left” writer. For those who don’t know it, Grass was a life-long supporter of the German Social Democrats, even when he left the party for few years out of disappointment; he wrote speeches for his close friend, Chancellor Willy Brandt, one of the most fervent German anti-Communists, and he was himself a lifelong anti-Communist. The German Social Democrats, and also Grass himself, were never “far-left”, and the footnote is either reflecting a completely uninformed editor, or is – what I don’t hope, but cannot completely dismiss as a possibility – intentionally manipulative, “far-left” being in Bulgaria a common epithet for a Communist sympathiser.

On the other hand, it is mentioned that Salvador Dali left Spain after the Civil War, but “refrained from political activities”; those who don’t know who Dali really was, might get the impression that he was an active anti-fascist who left the country to avoid persecution – while the truth is exactly the opposite: he showed a servile attitude towards the dictator Franco and open sympathies for fascism, and he had even the bad taste to (figuratively speaking) spit on the grave of his former best friend Garcia Lorca, who was murdered by Dali’s new friends. There was a reason why Max Ernst crossed the street when he got sight of Dali during his emigration, and it was not only for artistic reasons that he didn’t want to face his shameless plagiarist!

Unfortunately, all intellectuals with sympathies for the (democratic) left seem to be described in a way similar to Grass, while in cases of intellectuals or artists with fascist sympathies a sudden amnesia seems to have taken hold of the editors. 

But not only when it comes to Western artists and intellectuals, this edition goes astray; almost all Bulgarian authors – most of them household names for the readers of this edition; even the famous Blaga Dimitrova has her two-line resume – have a footnote; only Lyubomir Levchev, a key figure of Bulgarian literary life in the time of Communism is not worthy(?) of a footnote. This gifted poet, a close friend of Markov while the later dissident was still living in Bulgaria, who made a career as an orthodox Communist literary functionary, played for example a very active role in the persecution and partly expulsion of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria in the 1980’s (euphemistically called “Revival process” by the Communists), a role in which he seems to take pride until today.

I doubt very much that the missing footnote for Lyubomir Levchev was an editorial oversight (I have privately my suspicion for which reason the footnote is missing), and this missing footnote, together with the other inadequate, wrong, and manipulative footnotes decrease my pleasure in this otherwise great and valuable edition very much. I hope that this edition will see many reprints, and that many especially young Bulgarians will read it – but with more appropriate and correct footnotes!

Георги Марков: До моя съвременник; Ненаписаната българска харта; Ходенето на българина по мъките (3 volumes), Communitas Foundation, Sofia 2015-2016

My remarks are mainly based on the first of the three volumes, which I have finished so far.

© 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.

Kiril Vasilev: Bann

Bann 

Ausscheidungen von küchenschaben
auf dem weissen einband des buchs
mit gedichten von Paul Celan

das nichts getrennt durch punkte
und wieder verbunden durch kommata
vor den worten und danach

ich stellte das buch wieder hinter den schrank
nun lasst uns darüber streiten ob die erlösung
unsere stimmen überdauern wird

———————————————————–

Заклинание

Изпражнения на хлебарки
върху бялата корица на книга
със стихове на Паул Целан

нищото разделено с точки
и свързано отново със запетайки
преди думите и след тях

върнах книгата зад шкафа
нека  спорът за спасението
да надживее гласовете ни
 

Übersetzung aus dem Bulgarischen von Thomas Hübner

Kiril Vasilev: Provintsii, Small Stations Press, London Sofia 2015 

© Kiril Vasilev and Small Stations Press, 2015.
© 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.

Krasimir Vardiev: erstickte worte

erstickte worte
rauchwolken
nasse straßen
trübe schatten
vage klänge
was fehlt
über die stille hinaus
ich will
jemanden berühren
fühlen mir einprägen
gib mir feuer
sei mein licht
im dunkel
nur für eine weile


задушаващи думи
димни завеси
мокри улици
мътни сенки
смътни звуци
недостигащи
отвъд мълчанието
искам да докосна
почуствам запомня
някого
дай ми огънче
бъди ми светлина
в мрака
само за малко 

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Übersetzung aus dem Bulgarischen von Thomas Hübner

Image may contain: 1 person, text

Krasimir Vardiev: s(r)amota, DA, Sofia 2016

© Krasimir Vardiev and DA Publishers, 2016.
© 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.

Krasimir Vardiev: varna 3

varna 3
 
varna
ist keine stadt
sondern ein zustand
den du
vergessen willst
und nicht kannst

—————————————

варна 3
 
варна
не е град
а състояние
да искаш
да забравиш
и да не можеш


Übersetzung aus dem Bulgarischen von Thomas Hübner

Image may contain: 1 person, text

Krasimir Vardiev: s(r)amota, DA, Sofia 2016

© Krasimir Vardiev and DA Publishers, 2016.
© 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.