20 November 12 | Chad W. Post

In addition to supporting the publication of one Bulgarian book a year through the “Contemporary Bulgarian Writers Contest,” the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation also supports an annual fellowship opportunity, allowing one Bulgarian-to-English translator to spend a few weeks in Rochester, NY, learning about the American publishing scene, participating in both of my classes, and having their project workshopped at Plüb (our weekly translation-bar experience).

This year’s winner is Bistra Andreeva, a freelance translator who has spent the past few years working at One Magazine, a quarterly publication for arts in culture, with expert Bulgarian translator Angela Rodel. In addition, Bistra: translated over ten film screenplays (frequently collaborating with Angela Rodel), translated pieces by Sam McPheeters and Tao Lin into Bulgarian, translated Selected Works and Events by One Magazine and Napalm Graffix into English, and participated in the “Literary Translation Workshop on Translating” put together by the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation and the Union of Bulgarian Writers.

Here’s an excerpt from Irina Papancheva’s Annabel, the project that Bistra applied with:

Annabel

A brief biographical note

Annabel S., 32, was born in a small European town. She acquired her secondary education at an art school and then completed an M.A. in Public Administration in the capital. At the age of 25, she started working for the state authorities. Currently, she is Director of the International Relations directorate at the Ministry of State Administration. She is single and lives with her partner Nikola. The beginning of the narrative coincides with the end of her one-week stay in the Netherlands on account of a project that she is coordinating.

1

As soon as she got off the plane and stepped into the Amsterdam airport, she felt a few butterflies in her stomach. For a second there, she had the sense of déjá vu. Thirteen years later, she was back. She took a breath, pulled together all of her will power and got down to business. Upon exiting the airport, she hailed a taxi to her hotel. It was a narrow five story building, squeezed between other narrow buildings, meaning a typical Amsterdam hotel. She handed her ID to the habitually polite reception woman, waited until she was checked-in and headed towards the elevator. She passed by an aging man and their eyes met for a moment. She noticed his were an intense gray.

A typical hotel suite, small, but nice – that was going to be her home for the following week. Yet another hotel home in the succession of trips and projects.
She pulled the curtains to let the day into the square living-room. After the whitish, rainish morning, the sky was clear, and the sun light was pouring unimpeded over the freshly wet city.

She had two hours and a half until her first project meeting. The hot shower stream was soothing. She put on her jeans and a shirt, and she left.

The hotel was in close proximity to the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum. She hesitated for a second and started in the opposite direction, slowly and aimlessly. During the week, Amsterdam was, for the most part, like any other city. The tourist crowds were gone and the daily routine was in the air.

She found it revamped, but unaffected at its core, it was like she had left yesterday. She had expected to feel excited, but instead she was unruffled. Maybe it was the circumstances surrounding her departure that had blunted her sensitivity. Or, maybe it was the circumstances in her life over the years that had detached her from her past in Amsterdam and before that, so much so that it was now difficult to reconnect emotionally. Impassively and indifferently she walked against the backdrop of her early youth.

She saw cafe tables by the canal and sat down at one of them. She ordered cappuccino. On the table next to hers, a boy and a girl were whispered to each other and laughed. To their side, an old lady was dreamily staring at the water.

Annabel took out her cell phone and switched it on. She had forgotten to do that right after she landed, which was unusual for her. She had a connection with her phone and her laptop that was stronger than the one she had with most of her colleagues. Six missed calls. Of them, two were from Nikola, one from Erika. The rest were from unknown numbers. She finished her cappuccino and headed back to her hotel.

Cosmopolitans Cafe

The winners were going to be invited to Amsterdam. Maybe that was what drew me to participate in the essay competition on the topic of “The New Cosmopolitan.” I could swing by Amsterdam any time I wished, and I had done it more than once, but somehow I saw more than a mere coincidence in the chance to participate in this discussion in that very city. Maybe it had to do with the fact that I was cooking up my new novel and I envisaged the plot unwind in Amsterdam. Maybe my taking part in the competition was going to flush me with a new wave of inspiration.

It was approximately at that time that my boss at the Information and Communications European Commission Directorate General assigned me to work on a European citizenship report. So I started to think about Europe, citizenship, the national, the cosmopolitan and the connection between all of them. And the connection between all of them and Amsterdam.

Once, during a lunch break, that connection took on the image of a woman. Beautiful, composed, with a nationality that was hard to pinpoint, distant, magnetic, unflappable. She was having lunch on her own, and although she was surrounded by many socializing people, she remained reclusive and she didn’t seem to notice them. Her eyes glazed over me with a disinterestedness, which was in no way offensive or personal. There she was – my heroine. Annabel.

That same day, in the early evening, I created my first blog.

Congratulations, and I’m looking forward to working with Bistra and sharing some of her experiences and work with all of you.


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