Reading (and writing in) Bulgaria

New books, uncertainty, a seminar and why writers should attend readings in their national folk costume

There is a lot of new Bulgarian literature available at Three Percent in connection with the Bulgarian Contemporary Novel Contest run by the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation (EKF) and the America for Bulgarian Foundation. First of all, the 2010 winning title, Thrown into Nature by Milen Ruskov has just been released by Open Letter Books. To read a long preview of the novel in various formats click here.

This year two novels were selected to be published by Open Letter in 2012, and excerpts of both A Short Tale of Shame by Angel Igov and 18% Gray by Zachary Karabashliev are available on Three Percent. On top of this, the EKF  and Open Letter sponsor a fellowship for a Bulgarian translator and you can read a brief account of translator Olga Nikolova’s work on This Is the Way It Happens by Albena Stambolova.

The EKF has also just opened up the application process for its fifth annual Sozopol Fiction Seminar to take place on May 24 – 27, 2012. A small group of English-speaking and Bulgarian fiction writers will get the opportunity to spend a few days learning from Elizabeth Kostova, Krassimir Damianov and other writers.

EKF also offers an e-handbook of assorted lectures given by Sozopol Fiction Seminars’ faculty such as Iliya Troyanov, Alex Miller, Josip Novakovich and Kate Mosse. There are some fantastic pieces in it, including Kristin Dimitrova recounting this surreal, awkward exchange at a reading she gave in the US when an audience member asked her if her poems were sufficiently Bulgarian:

“You didn’t expect me to read in a national costume or something, did you?” I probed.

“I guess I did,” he said with an awkward smile. “I must admit that’s exactly what I expected.”

(Ed. Note – The lesson for American writers going to Sozopol is that you might want to pack a cowboy hat. I’m not quite sure what British writers should do though . . maybe a mop top?)

There is also Georgi Gospodinov discussing his Natural Novel and singing the praises of uncertainty:

“We live in a culture that doesn’t tolerate uncertainty. You learn in self-help manuals that you must be confident, you must know what you want and you must follow it with dogged determination. There are many writers who say that once they set their hands to work, they know all they need to know about their characters; they know the beginning and the end of their books. They even know the first and the last sentences. That all sounds quite depressing to writers like me who belong to the opposite school.”

And if you would like to hear about Gospodinov’s follow-up novel The Physics of Sadness, he speaks about it in an interview with Bulgaria’s Focus News Agency here.

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Categories: Books, Literary Events


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