In addition to the Bulgarian Contemporary Novel contest, Open Letter and the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation also sponsor a special fellowship that allows for one Bulgarian translator to stay in Rochester for three weeks and learn about the American publishing scene and interact with the literary translation students at the University of Rochester.
This year’s recipient is Olga Nikolova, who got her Ph.D. in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University and currently teaches English at the Université de La Rochelle, France.
The project that she applied with is Albena Stambolova’s This Is the Way It Happens, which Nikolova described in this way:
Boris, a young boy painfully uncomfortable around people, feels at ease with bees. The apian approach to life, admirable in its single-mindedness, makes human existence appear imperfect and burdensome. He falls in love with a girl who wears a pleated skirt. He never speaks to her, but he feels her presence as a spatial relationship his body cannot avoid. She disappears one moonlit evening, magically climbing the wall of a house. In the meantime, Philip, a 27-year-old pathologist meets Maria, a woman whose eyes, we are told, are like fog. Philip proposes to Maria as if driven by some mysterious compulsion. They marry and have children, the twins Valentin and Margarita. . . . And thus the story continues, accumulating archetypal events and relationships, until the fates of all its seven protagonists become tied in one existential knot. In its scalpel-worthy precision and succinctness, and in its psychological astuteness, Stambolova’s novel can be compared with Albert Camus’s L’Etranger. Yet, unlike the latter, This Is the Way It Happens is not a manifesto, nor a “philosophical novel.” As the author herself claims in her brief introduction, the book aims to be “the story of everyone,” and everyone’s story is a love story in which “one”, as a singular individual, plays the part assigned to him or her by chance. An openly allegorical assemblage of simple stories, This Is the Way It Happens is both highly readable and profoundly meaningful—the mark of a true masterpiece.
I’m personally looking forward to meeting and working with Olga, and hopefully after her fellowship, we’ll publish an excerpt from her translation. And thanks again to the Elizabeth Kosotova Foundation and the America for Bulgaria Foundation for making this all possible.
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