It would be hard to overstate all the amazing things the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation for Creative Writing (and Elizabeth herself) has done for contemporary Bulgarian writers. Sure, there’s the Sozopol Fiction Seminars, but they also organized a special day of panels on Literary Diplomacy to take place in Sofia, helped bring publishers and Bulgarian writers & translators together, sponsor the Dyankov Translation Award for the most outstanding translation from English into Bulgarian, and now have helped launch the Contemporary Bulgarian Writers website to help promote Bulgarian writers abroad.
For publishers, these sorts of sites are invaluable. Aside from random meetings at the Frankfurt Book Fair, or personal connections developed slowly and one-by-one over the years, it can be extremely hard for editors to find out about contemporary literature from countries such as Bulgaria. (And by “countries such as Bulgaria” I mean ones that don’t have an active governmental organization like the Finnish Literature Exchange, German Book Office, French Cultural Services, Japanese Literature Publishing Project, etc., promoting their contemporary writers to the rest of the world.) Beyond identifying new writers to check out, a site like this helps provide a bit of context for any submissions that an editor does happen to receive. I mean, there are only a handful of Bulgarian novels that have ever been published in English, so it’s hard to understand the tradition and evolution of Bulgarian literature.
Seriously—anyone interested in Bulgarian (or simply international) literature should check this out. I’m sure that it’ll expand greatly over the next year, but the site already features maybe two dozen writers (and a handful of Bulgarian-to-English translators), and has biographical info, excerpts, critical reviews, contact information for all of them.
One author worth looking at is Zachary Karabashliev, whose first novel won the Book of the Year Award from the Vick Foundation and was chosen as one of the 100 Most Loved Books of All Time by Bulgarians, and his first collection of short stories won the Book of the Year Award from Helikon. He’s a very funny guy, and his stories are quite sharp.
In terms of translators, Angela Rodel deserves some special attention. She translated all of the pieces by the Bulgarian writers at the Sozopol Seminars AND she just was awarded a PEN Translation Fund Award for Georgi Tenev’s Holy Light, which sounds pretty interesting:
Alloying political sci-fi with striking eroticism, the stories in Holy Light depict a world of endless, wearying revolution and apocalypse, where bodies have succumbed to a sinister bio-politics of relentless cruelty and perversion. “In first class they offered easy emancipation, perhaps even electrocution, but he was traveling economy class where they wouldn’t even serve him food.” (No publisher)
(I was actually on a panel with both Georgi and Angela—both very smart, very interesting people.)
By the way, if I haven’t said this in a while, all fiction writers should apply to the Sozopol Fiction Seminars . . .
As mentioned on the Absinthe blog, the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation and VAGABOND (an English-language magazine from Bulgaria) are teaming up to publish works from twelve “young and sometimes not-so-young Bulgarian writers that the EKF considers original, refreshing and valuable.”
The first one available is Georgi Tenev, who won the 2007 Vick Prize for the novel Party Headquarters. In addition to the translation of “Christo and All Those Bad Things,” the article also includes an brief interview with Tenev that primarily focuses on winning the Vick Prize.
How did you feel when you received the prize?
I was nervous and blinking constantly because I’m not used to my new glasses yet. After they handed me the award, everybody stepped back and for three whole minutes – it seemed like much longer to me! – I was alone amidst the photographers. I just stood there counting the flashes and regretting that since the advent of digital cameras nobody bothers limiting their shots. I also realised what celebrity defendants must feel like when surrounded by journalists, while they just sit there helplessly in handcuffs! I was happy, but couldn’t bring myself to grin and wave.
Silvia Choleva does a great job making Party Headquarters sound intriguing:
What do Chernobyl and S & M have in common? Not much, you may think, until you read Georgi Tenev’s Vick Prize-winning novel Partien dom, or Party Headquarters. But combining Communism, sex and nuclear disaster is all in a day’s work for the Sfumato dramatist.
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