In The Nation there’s a thorough and fantastic article about Bulgarian writer and exiled dissident Georgi Markov titled “A Captivating Mind: How Georgi Markov became the truth-teller of Bulgaria’s communist era, and paid for it with his life.”
Playwright, novelist, essayist and journalist, Markov was murdered on orders of the Bulgarian secret service in London in 1978. Initially lionized by the communist regime, and happily conforming to the tendencies of the post-Stalin thaw, Markov’s increasing disaffection led to his falling out of favor, to his exile and in the end, to his assassination by poison pellet gun, a case which remains unsolved largely due to the “disappearance” of the Bulgarian secret service case files and continuing resistance by former members of the regime to reveal their complicity in this and other crimes.
Besides all the disturbing facts from the past there’s the disturbing present – the sad fact that Markov’s books are almost entirely unavailable in English. On Amazon you can get an out-of-print copy of the abridged translation of his classic In Absentia: Reports About Bulgaria (titled The Truth that Killed) from $50, and a bit cheaper in the UK, where used copy of his book about British politics Right Honourable Chimpanzee, are also available from £0.23. Beyond that his name disappears into Bulgarian guidebooks, books on true crime and a history of poison.
And then there’s Bulgaria, where a survey found that 51% of Bulgarians between 15 and 35 didn’t know the reason for Markov’s death, but that 67% had never heard of the Iron Curtain.
But the picture isn’t entirely bleak. There remain those fighting to find out the truth about his murder (and you should read the article to get to the part about the likely killer and where he is now and what he says) and hopefully Markov’s work will eventually make it back into print in English as well as onto the stage.
Daniela Kapitáňová interview
And just to show that it’s not only Bulgaria where the persistence of remnants of the former regime create a drag on national life, there’s an interview with The Missing Slate’s latest Author of the Month Daniela Kapitáňová, who discusses her novel Samko Tále’s Cemetery Book, excerpted there recently and very much on topic.
She talks about how Samko today would most likely snitch to a tabloid reporter, her shift to an innovative form of detective fiction in her recent work and mentions some Slovak writers she particularly loves.
Kharms ‘Three New Decrees’
Speaking of snitches and communist swinery, Narrative (registration required but it’s free) has three short pieces by the great Daniil Kharms, translated by Alex Cigale. “An Obstacle”, “Summer” and “The Good Doctor” are . . well, they’re Kharms, there’s not much else to say.
Photo – Georgi Markov