CREATIVE NON-FICTION http://vagabond.bg/index.php/ en RUIN BLUES http://vagabond.bg/index.php/ruin-blues-2986 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">RUIN BLUES</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Kapka Kassabova</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 04/01/2021 - 10:59</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>This essay was originally included in the anthology <em>My Brother's Suitcase: Stories About the Road</em> (ICU Publishing, 2020), compiled and edited by Nevena Dishlieva-Krysteva</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Why is it that there are places in the world which chime with us, even if we've never been there before? While others make us ill at ease, in some subtle but incurable way not unlike a dysfunctional relationship. When I was in my late teens, our family emigrated from Sofia to the south island of New Zealand. It was immediately obvious that we had landed in the world's most beautiful landscape, which is why it felt perverse to feel as disconnected as I felt from the start. It felt wrong that nothing – not sheer natural beauty, not the new life we made for ourselves there – could heal the chasm I experienced between inner and outer reality, and that time and familiarity couldn't either. The irrational malaise lasted for several years: now everything around me, the blue carpet of the Pacific that hemmed the island in, the steep drafty streets, the violent red pohutekawa, everything felt strangely remembered. Was it precisely because this was an island, and my young, inexperienced land-locked psyche linked islands with the shipwrecks and penal colonies of adventures gone wrong? I didn't know, but around that time I met a psychologist from Buenos Aires who quoted one of his patients, and old man with melancholia. I was born in Argentina of Italian parents, the old man had said, but when I look at the Pampa, I feel a chilling emptiness. This is not my landscape. I don't know who I am here. I feel as if my life has unfolded elsewhere, in Europe, and now it's too late.</p> <p>That psychologist believed that melancholia is the manifestation of a spiritual problem of belonging, which we may call the problem of home. It is possible that there is a special kind of topographic melancholia which is what the Italian Argentine was suffering from in the Pampas, something the exiled Polish writer Witold Gombrowitz described in detail in his Diarios Argentinos – compulsory reading for any of us exiles, émigrés, immigrants and internal immigrants, topographic melancholics and ecstatics. Because I now believe that there is such a thing as topographic ecstasy, the sense of being at home in a landscape, at the center of your private psychic earth.</p> <p>During those dislocated antipodean years, I didn't know that in some other future decade I would finally find a home on another island, despite warnings that Scotland and the South Island of New Zealand have a similar landscape – and sheep, people added, as if that was key. As soon as I arrived in the Highlands with their ruinous castles and wind-nibbled cottages and obstinate drywalls, with their great sweeping sadness and folding blue ranges, their violent rivers, peat-purple lochs, and people with faces full of secrets, there was a recognition – the recognition of the old world. I had no ancestral history in this landscape but it felt like a homecoming. It was two things that did it – the mountains and the ruins.</p> <p>Some of Scotland's ruins are the poignant remnants of what's known as the Highland Clearances of the 1800s, when greedy land owners forced people to move off their land, so that they could turn the ploughed fields into grazing pastures for sheep. A million sheep. Sheep made more money than subsistence agriculture, and this is how rich Scots became richer and poor Scots became one of the great immigrant nations. The displaced had no choice but to set sail for the new world and turn bitter exile into opportunity.</p> <p>But ruins belong to the old world and perhaps old worlders have an ingrained ancestral need for them, something in our genetic make-up that simply responds to old things. Let's call it ruin blues.</p> <p>I got a large dose of the ruin blues one summer, travelling around the less-visited parts of the Bulgarian countryside. I spent the first eighteen years of my life here and it is the only place on earth where I don't have to spell my name, which brings to mind the Irish saying "Home is where they can say your name."</p> <p>Perhaps that is why I was sweating in the rented Dacia along what looked and felt like Europe's most wrecked road, while ritualistically eating my way through a packet of cheap Borovets wafers whose taste and packaging has retained its comforting shabbiness since the 1970s, perhaps even the 1950s. The road, identical in its lunar surface to many Bulgarian roads that appear on the map as "secondary," runs inland from Burgas and has retained its holes since the 1970s, too. Not another car in sight. There were, however, a gaggle of slow-moving road workers and, for a moment, I thought they were repairing the road. But no – they were numbering the holes, perhaps in preparation for some distant moment when the repair work would be done. Hole number fourteen proved too much for the car, and I stopped in the middle of the deserted road to check that I hadn't lost a wheel. I hadn't, but when I waded further into the field of wild wheat on the side of the road, I came up to something that blended in with the scorched, worn-out landscape of late summer: a ruin.</p> <p>The lone skeleton of a Soviet-era tractor was bleeding rust among the weeds that had reclaimed the husk of a long building. Twenty years of rain and snow had caved the roof in. Through a hole in the wall, you could almost reconstruct the agricultural equipment from what was left after the metal had been lifted for recycling. Some road signs had been lifted too – once a nation of prosperous peasants, now a nation of resourceful recyclers.</p> <p>Overgrown fields, so lush they were almost self-reproducing, stretched between the villages of Kabile and Debelt. In Debelt, formerly Turkish Yakezli and more formerly Deultum in the province of Flavia, the ruins of Roman baths – genuinely Roman, unlike those seventeenth century Roman (code for Ottoman) bridges scattered around the country because, in the Balkans, some ruins are more desirable than others. Thracian ruins are welcome, Ottoman ruins are not. In Kabile, a gaggle of men with dicey teeth sat at high noon, drinking warm beers. To see historic Kabile, the remains of a Thracian town, I climbed the snake-infested hill past the closed museum, past the rusted explanatory signs, past the lone treasure-hunter stripped down to his boxer shorts and digging under an early medieval basilica, and to the top, from where I could see the fertile Thracian plains that had made this a country of prosperous peasants.</p> <p>"A journey through Bulgaria is marked at each turn by the catacombs of disappeared peoples and eras," said the nineteenth-century ethnographer Felix Kanitz, and this is even truer now than it was a century and a half ago. Since then, a whole new category of catacomb has appeared – the ruins of the Soviet experiment. Disused co-operatives like this one. Derelict factories. Rusty convention centers in the shape of broken-down UFOs on top of panoramic hills. Empty villages like the ones which line this ruin of a road.</p> <p>Between Kabile and Debelt lie the ghostly villages of Svetlina [Light], Zornitsa [Dawn], Chelnik [Frontline Soldier], Okop [Trench], Pobeda [Victory]. In Dawn, a stork nested on the head of a manly proletarian with a raised fist. An old woman bent at ninety degrees crossed the empty square on her way to what resembled, to borrow from Francis Fukuyama, the "end of history." Here in Dawn, the end of history takes the shape of a former communist-era shop gutted as if after a bombardment, with a little corner of it occupied by a café where the familiar gaggle of unshaven men chain-smoked and observed the passing of the daily car. There are not enough people left in the village to warrant a proper shop and one of the reasons is the disused co-operative. When it opened, everything owned by the people of Dawn, Victory, and Trench, which then must have had more modest names, was claimed by the communist state – cattle, land, vineyards – forcing the villagers to voluntarily join the co-op or voluntarily seek work in the urban five-year-plan Bulgaria of factories, dams, and mega-constructions like those concrete schemes on the outskirts of towns that make your heart sink as you drive through. I grew up in one of these, outside Sofia; it was called Youth 3. There were four Youths, and rumor had it that Youth 15 would have sea views. But by the time our family had moved into Block 328 in Youth 3, after years on a waiting list, the newly built apartments looked old. Today, these active socialist ruins are draped in giant capitalist advertisements, with the perennial washing on their crumbling balconies flapping like a million flags of distress.</p> <p>But if urban ruins like Youth 3 are now densely populated because that's where the jobs are, villages are down to ten percent of their pre-1945 population. If a village had two hundred inhabitants, today it has twenty. It's the same story all over the country. The only exceptions are the actual ghost villages, like Moryane on the Turkish border where the entire population was displaced after a border fence was built in the 1950s, leaving one old man to turn the lights on and off at night. To make the NATO enemy (Turkey) think there was somebody there. There isn't anymore and there isn't even a road to it. The only building left is the ruin of the village school, an unintended monument to the unborn children of Moryane.</p> <p>Now we mention it, derelict village schools and broken Soviet-themed monuments are another major category of ruin, more virulent and more visible than all the ancient catacombs of Bulgaria put together. In a country where a Thracian tomb is dug up every other year and people use the stones of Roman agoras to build their houses, such virulence is yet another perverse achievement of the Soviet experiment.</p> <p>"A ruin is a dialogue between an incomplete reality and the imagination of the spectator," Kenneth Clark said rather romantically, but he didn't go to post-communist Bulgaria, where it isn't so much imagination as memory, and it isn't so much an incomplete reality as a failed one. Unless they are the same thing, of course, which is possible. Either way, it seems to me that all ruins have something to do with our acceptance of failure and impermanence. No wonder we are fascinated by them. </p> <p>No wonder I miss them when they're not around. There is something honest about a ruin.</p> <p>But the real reason for this journey was to do with the present, not the past: it was to meet the people behind a radical new movement of self-sustenance through farming. Their irresistibly charming motto is "Be yourself, become a peasant" ("Okay!" You want to say). Their lifestyle choice can be seen as an act of resistance anywhere in urban, materialistic, disillusioned post-recession Europe, but it is doubly so here, where the totalitarian tradition still rules: state and crime are two heads of the same hydra. And if you can't entirely escape the state by moving to the countryside, at least you can feel as if you have. A return to your grandmother's depopulated village where you can grow your own vegetables, make your own daily laws, and be at peace with your neighbors – if there are any left – is a brave and ingenious solution. To emigrate from the urban daily neurosis to the early morning crowing of the rooster – it seems odd that to connect with the land has become a luxury only the very resourceful or the very desperate can afford. When in fact, to connect with the lost, ancient parts of ourselves – the selves that dwelled in the natural realm – is a spiritual necessity.</p> <p>Unconsciously, I was doing the same in the rented Dacia, with my neutral New Zealand passport and my Borovets wafers: trying to connect with something lost. Lost, in my case, through twenty years of emigration and a deliberate distancing from what I can't even bring myself to call a "homeland" – because what is a homeland if you don't live there and if, when you did, in your tender years, you wanted to run away? Of course, you wanted to run away precisely because you knew you couldn't.</p> <p>In The Songlines, his journey through the Australian outback, Bruce Chatwin writes of the Aboriginal belief that a place can only be home if you have at least four ways out, at any given time. You don't need to be a native of the extinct village of Moryane to grasp that a state which exiles its own people by replacing their vegetable gardens with barbed wire and putting a military garrison in the village school is not your friend. A land that has the Berlin Wall in lieu of a door is a prison, and a prison is the opposite of home.</p> <p>This is why I regard nostalgia – memory edited to suit the ruling emotions of the day – with suspicion. Nostalgia is the exiled mind's propaganda to itself. The exiled mind is by definition unhappy, and in the Balkans we have especially recent examples of what happens when such minds assume power. By indulging our nostalgia, we make ourselves doubly exiled, once from the past and twice from the present. The Egyptian émigré writer Andre Aciman describes an exile thus: "not just someone who has lost his home; it is someone who can't find another, who can't think of another." Nostalgia's post-communist cousin Ostalgia (from Ost, German for east) implicates its sufferers in a difficult question: are we forced to love something just because it is lost forever and, failing that, are we forced to hate it? And if neither – it must be neither or that way misery and insanity lie – what then is the alternative? Perhaps the answer lies in ruins.</p> <p>Wild Thyme is the name of a small eco-farm I visited in the northern village of Palamartsa, and it belongs to an expat British-Irish couple. They bought two handsome ruins at the end of the village and turned them into their dream life: a house for them and a house for guests, large gardens, goats, dogs, good neighbors.</p> <p>They are one of twenty expat couples and families here, mostly Britons, who have seen potential in the ruins of Palamartsa, an unfamous but quintessential Bulgarian village where hundreds of large abandoned houses are what remains of its glory days. An English-Welsh couple run a bar on a steep street and one evening I joined the customers, all eight of them. Beer, meatballs, fried potatoes with the grated feta cheese on top, pink light over the hills, birds. Wild cherry trees in derelict gardens shed their fruit onto the street. The village houses looked at us with their empty windows, and the cows were coming home. Old women sat on benches, their faces overwritten with history. Perhaps when they stare into space, they see thousands of ghosts walking to the ghostly bakery, the ghostly shop, the ghostly village hall for a ghostly music festival. The ghosts of those who were forced to become factory workers, then gastarbeiters abroad, then like me global souls – the glamorous term for those forced by bitter exile into opportunity.</p> <p>Here we were in the grubby pink dusk, Brits, Bulgarians, and those in between, more or less voluntary exiles from our homelands, deflecting nostalgia by feeding our unnamed hunger with home-grown courgettes, goat yogurt, and Borovets wafers. Here we were, strangely at home among the ruins.</p> <p>Come to think of it, the key happy moments of my childhood involved ruins. Romanian Queen Mary's Palace in the seaside town of Balchik, where I holidayed with my grandparents, wasn't really a palace but a giant garden of crumbling sea walls, chipped stone thrones from Bessarabia, echoey Moroccan amphorae full of stagnant water, mossy Ottoman tombs, and – most enigmatic of all, at the end of the jetty – a concrete penguin with a missing wing. A recent ruin with a personality, the penguin looked out to sea while the algae-thick water lapped at his broken feet. I would sit there in the sleepy afternoon with a cone of vanilla ice-cream and contemplate important matters lost to history. Up above the town, the limestone cliffs crumbled invisibly and the asphalt promenade had cracked open like chocolate cake in the oven of summer – erosion. In twenty years, people said, it would slip into the sea. They were right; I went to check twenty years later, when my grandparents were both dead. The penguin was gone and the pretty hillside resort village where we had stayed was a snake-infested ruin slipping into the sea.</p> <p>But the afternoon ruins of my childhood gave me something that transcends the brief sorrow of time's destruction. They gave me a magic sense of time, the ability to apprehend the secret life of things. As the Fox said to the Little Prince, the essential is invisible to the eye.</p> <p>I wonder whether humans carry the ruin blues from a faraway place, perhaps an ancestral knowledge of the mysteries of time, of how time moves through love and landscape, mortar and body, and molds everything into a ruin so that new things can emerge, or not. Either way, the need for a narrative of continuity is probably encoded in our collective psyche. To live in an outer world without ruins is, for me and maybe for that Italian Argentinian in the Pampa, to live without this narrative, to live in an outer world that does not reflect your inner world.</p> <p>It might be that beauty, order, and prosperity are enough to make a home for our ego, but they are not enough to make a home for our imagination. For our individual and collective reality to be complete, we need a conversation with failure, which is also a conversation with hope. This may well be the only honest alternative to nostalgia's dangerous bipolarity of love-and-hate. The Jesuit philosopher Michel de Certeau said it in fewer words: "Haunted places are the only ones people can live in." </p> <p><strong>Kapka Kassabova was born in Sofia and immigrated with her family to New Zealand at the beginning of the 1990s. Ten year later, she decided to settle in Scotland. She has published novels, poetry collections, and several difficult-to-categorize but highly impactful narrative non-fiction books, including: Street Without a Name, Twelve Minutes of Love, Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe, and To the Lake. A good listener, Kapka takes great interest in new places and people, but at the same time leaves her interlocutors with the feeling that their personal boundaries are respected and left intact.</strong></p> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-174" hreflang="en">Issue 174</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/culture/creative-non-fiction" hreflang="en">CREATIVE NON-FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=2986&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="8GM4_4C271TB9ueW-nY-N9IGOD29HQZRPa5soP_QUCY"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 01 Apr 2021 07:59:39 +0000 DimanaT 2986 at http://vagabond.bg http://vagabond.bg/index.php/ruin-blues-2986#comments 'THE OLD DOG' OF DIPLOMACY... http://vagabond.bg/index.php/old-dog-diplomacy-2941 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">&#039;THE OLD DOG&#039; OF DIPLOMACY...</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Margarita Veleva</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 02/25/2021 - 18:12</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Or one hundred and one ways to escape boredom</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p><em>This essay was originally included in the anthology </em>Fathers Never Go Away<em> (<a href="http://icu-bg.com">ICU Publishing</a>, 2020), edited by Nevena Dishlieva-Krysteva and translated from the Bulgarian by Ekaterina Petrova</em></p> <p>My father is a hero! A cliché from movies and novels, an exclamation by the neighbor kid, the thought you fall asleep with at night. Your father, my father, their father, your love, your roof, your raincoat or light saber, your Titan against Zeus. While still just a small child, my humble persona pronounced herself to be Pallas Athena and jumped straight out of his wise Olympian head in all my glory and godliness. Period! And Mom gave me a nice warm embrace after His Highness screamed at me for translating "shallow plate" into Russian literally. But anyway, through our joint efforts – actually, mainly his – we were able to win the quizzes in history, then Russian (we beat them on their own territory, so to speak, or more precisely, at the Russian school in Yemen), and mathematics. We pulled off a real <em>Turkish Gambit</em>, enough to make Akunin and his Fa-fa-fandorin lose their bearings and their minds.</p> <p>I don't know what Oedipus Rex's problem was exactly, but my problem with my father is gigantic – a complex as big as an iceberg. And how could it be otherwise, when "Zdravko Velev was a big deal," as that most natural source of cleverness, the writer and friend Georgi Milkov, once said. And he added: "He was one of those old dogs of diplomacy, from whom you could learn more than from all the Soviet and American textbooks. He was from that proud breed of remarkable people who, even with their mere presence, never leave you indifferent, regardless of whether your emotions are positive or negative. He was quite the character." With these words, Georgi also summarized what we wanted to say as our farewell to Dad.</p> <p>It's true, he was a big deal, and a big mouth, and a big heart, and a big hug, and a home, and a table.</p> <p>Our home was open to everyone at all times. Always. Regardless of the time and space it was positioned in – whether it was in Bulgaria, Libya, or Yemen; in Sofia, Tripoli, Aden, or Sana. Besides always being open, our home was also filled to the brim with emotions, with excitement, with loud conversations, with eating and drinking. It was all "sans frontières" and happening under the motto: "Let there be plenty!" No matter what his contemporaries might say, I'm convinced that it was precisely Dad who came up with the legendary call of his generation: "For God's sake, brothers, go buy things!" Many times, while barricaded in my room and studying for yet another damned exam (when it came to exams, for me – mostly thanks to Dad – the rule that usually applied was: the more, the better), I would pray to God and the Devil to spare me from yet another posse of friends and their endless stories told in the first person about past and present grandeur, their jokes that could bring redness to Scarlett O'Hara's cheeks, their collective variations on the piano. Our poor piano, it never fulfilled its true potential in our musically disabled yet maniacally music-loving family. Dad owned everything the world's musical genius had ever created. During the 1960s, the whole paychecks of our dear cultural attaché in Tripoli – i.e. my father – were invested in the purchase of all the "imported" records on the local market, so that he could throw yet another gigantic party in the heart of the Jamahiriya, with Elvis drowning out the muezzin and Dad scoring extra points with the female company at the soirée, which often turned into a matinée. A representative sample of the fairer sex's presence at these legendary parties "chez Velev" included Mom as well. The exquisite Madonna or Jackie was what they called her – not because of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, but short for La Joconde. And so, the French College in Tripoli and the francophone aspirations of the Embassy of the People's Republic of Bulgaria in Libya gave birth to the love between a high-school student with her white collar and the gallant Arabic scholar. A love that shaped the life of both of them. One life – one love. For me, their love will forever remain ingrained in the wonderfully raspy voice of Anthony Quinn and the song that Dad played for Mom at every anniversary, at every birthday, and of course, at each and every transgression, whether voluntary or not. And we knew that everything was all right: "I love you, you love me, I love you, Ich liebe dich, Te quiero, Je t'adore."</p> <p>There were also the paintings. The one of Plovdiv by Zlatyu Boyadzhiev. And the black-and-white drawings by Peretz – I adored them. Daaad, Daaaad, give it to me, pleeeease, give me Zlatyu! The painting is so warm, full, colorful, homey – and it has invariably kept its location in the apartment, even after all of Mom's complete renovations. And when I come back after a long absence and look at it, I know he's there and I'm home.</p> <p>As Fandorin, whom I mentioned at the beginning, would say while investigating a complicated case: Painting – that's first! Music – that's second! Books – that's third!</p> <p>The library at home. It was an institution; a cultural phenomenon. An architectural landmark. An achievement in interior design and in the patience of the master carpenter, who somehow managed  – I still don't know how – to accommodate part of his bibliophilic treasure in the space provided to him, which consisted of four walls in my so-called room. How I loved the scent of the antique stores that we used to roam around in like a pack of starved wolves each weekend! We were often able to find some half-hidden treasure or other that had managed to escape the eyes of others – on some dusty shelf or in a crushed cardboard box. It was a feat and a reward. This is where the rest of the money went that hadn't already been spent on records. The master builder never did build a house in the Boyana neighborhood, but he did make a library on 8 Balchik Street. It contained all kinds of things: from prehistoric editions that belonged to my great-grandparents; to the <em>Zlatni Zarna</em> book series; the oh-so-wonderful four volumes on the Dreyfus Affair with their most beautiful, supple, almost sexually scented leather binding; the tattered, falling-apart <em>War and Peace</em>; the still-kept photocopies of <em>Children of the Arbat</em> made by the Soviet ambassador in Yemen; the marked, underlined, corroded <em>History</em> by the undefeatable Professor Zlatarski with its title in beautiful golden lettering.</p> <p>During one of those moments that his family, friends, and colleagues were painfully familiar with, when just like that, out of the blue, he would decide that I "must be bored," he went out and bought me a tidy notebook whose pages were divided into columns – its ambitious cosmic purpose was to gather on its pages, neatly described and classified, all the countless titles that lined the new book- shelves, which reached from floor to ceiling. I lost my mind. I maybe got to the fifth shelf on the third row from right to left, and then I capitulated like Marshal Pétain at Compiègne, like the Spanish Armada at Trafalgar, glory to the one-eyed and handsome Admiral Nelson. I can't be sure, but I think I really disappointed Dad with my failure to complete the mission and put together the much-longed- for library catalogue.</p> <p>The family annals also keep a record of another well-known instance of "boredom," which took place when my younger sister Inna was born, on a Christmas morning some time ago. That year Dad was left to serve in Yemen on his own, while Mom and I awaited the holy event in the homeland. He celebrated Christmas Eve with his colleagues befittingly, until early in the morning. But at 5 a.m., right after the drunken revelers had gone home, the good tidings from Sofia reached Aden. And what could the proud parent do but order an evacuation – this, after all, was a very natural ambassadorial reflex, and it was effective, as practice had proven. How else was he to bring them back to the table? And how else was that great moment in the history of the world – the birth of Inna Veleva – to be commemorated? And so they started all over again – guitars, accordions, and pom-poms were brought back out – the fiesta was back on, and Velev Senior was satisfied! Evacuees of the world, make sure you evacuate on time, because you never know what crisis might happen at home or abroad!</p> <p>Another story about boredom, which has to do with Dad's staggering, embarrassing, scandalous, often-misunderstood, and black-as-tar sense of humor. "I'm bored," he announced one sleepy afternoon, while we were all dozing off on the couches with books in our hands. He picked up the phone and evacuated the embassy in Yemen. Literally. He declared a state of emergency in the country, and the employees were instructed, in accordance with the manual, to pack their essential belongings and gather together at the ambassador's residence. Then he took out one bottle (or three) of Johnnie Walker Black Label. The guitar was brought in. And he was no longer bored.</p> <p>He couldn't live without people. That was the thing. Many people. Constantly. He sometimes went into the other room briefly, sometimes even napped for half an hour, but nobody was allowed to leave the battlefield. He needed people to be there. Us. Mom. The kids. The relatives. The friends. The colleagues. They weren't colleagues – they were his crew, as we would say now. They were his people, his family.</p> <p>And so: the music, the books, the family, the loved ones, the friends, the crew from the ministry.</p> <p>That's what Dad is. Dad is everything. Dad is like our daily bread, and without him life is impossible.</p> <p><strong>Margarita Veleva is a diplomat, currently living in The Hague. She's worked at the Bulgarian Embassy in Zagreb and Bulgaria's permanent missions at NATO in Brussels and the UN in New York. She's a passionate lover of Russian and French literary classics. You're unlikely to catch her hiking in the mountains or working out at the gym, but she'd happily recite the libretto of any given opera by heart. She is the daughter of Zdravko Velev.</strong></p> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-173" hreflang="en">Issue 173</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/culture/creative-non-fiction" hreflang="en">CREATIVE NON-FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=2941&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="iE3neLiwODOyYhS4IRgHK8RSSIt29mnnwHhSTxP01c8"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 25 Feb 2021 16:12:03 +0000 DimanaT 2941 at http://vagabond.bg http://vagabond.bg/index.php/old-dog-diplomacy-2941#comments TOO FAR FOR COMFORT http://vagabond.bg/index.php/too-far-comfort-2875 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">TOO FAR FOR COMFORT</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Ekaterina Petrova</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Mon, 11/30/2020 - 11:29</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>An essay written within the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation's recent workshop Close to Home: Writing Personal Nonfiction Drawn from Life with Evan James</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>"Are all Bulgarians as touchy-feely as you?" The question had never occurred to me, until my friend Jenny asked me a few weeks after we met during our freshman year of college in Saint Paul, Minnesota. This was the first time I thought about personal space explicitly, even though I'd probably experienced it on a sensory level throughout my whole life. I was coming from a high school in Kuwait, which, although American in name, spirit, and language of instruction, was actually a hard-to-disentangle jumble of cultures, customs, greeting habits, and levels of touchiness. In Bulgaria, where I usually spent summer and winter vacations, friends tended to hug and kiss each other regularly, while strangers often stood a little too close for my own personal comfort. In the States, the tables seemed to have turned: many of the Americans I was meeting in college seemed to favor saying hello by waving at one another awkwardly while maintaining a distance of a few feet, and it was my tendency to stand a little too close that soon became a running joke among my new friends.</p> <p>A few weeks later in anthropology class, we learned about a social experiment that examined cultural differences in social and professional interactions. It dawned on me that I was behaving quite similarly to the South American businessmen from the study who, in their zeal and excitement during negotiations, would unwittingly keep taking steps forward, while their North American counterparts would keep stepping backward until their backs were against a wall.</p> <p>Personal space, and by extension physical touch, is sometimes thought of as a kind of language, which – much like spoken language – we learn and then use to communicate our emotions, thoughts, and needs. As someone who's had a lifelong interest in languages and makes their living by deciphering meaning in one language and attempting to transfer it into another one, I'm especially intrigued by this comparison. And it seems to me that many things that are true of "regular" languages are even truer of the language of touch. Despite assumptions to the contrary, I don't believe that we can ever truly "master" a language, whether we're born into it or acquire it later in life. This is even more so the case with the language of touch, which seems like something that's continuously learned, reflected on, and (re)negotiated. With every language, including the language of touch, knowing all the rules and conventions certainly helps, but it doesn't guarantee that you'll never break them, either on purpose or in what may be an innocent mistake.</p> <p>Since those early college days, I've become much more aware of people's varying preferences when it comes to their personal space and I make a conscious effort to respect them. I'd like to think that becoming a translator has had some bearing on my ability to interpret nonverbal signals when interacting with people, so that I don't behave in ways that make them feel uncomfortable. And yet, my enthusiasm sometimes still gets the better of me and I find myself standing too close to someone I've just met and waving around my arms a little too energetically. Over the years – inadvertently – I've literally cornered friends while talking to them at parties, squeezed myself into elevators packed with strangers, and, on one occasion, even doubled up in a revolving door with a woman who had just interviewed me for a job. In these and many other instances, I can only hope that my relatively small stature and the fact I'm a woman has saved from me coming off as a total creep.</p> <p>But there have also been plenty of times when I've found myself on the other side of the equation.</p> <p>Once, I was sitting in a Brooklyn bar with Nicole Miceli, a tiny but fierce friend originally from Staten Island. Nicole was one of the best people to tell stories to, as she seemed to genuinely love hearing them. We were sipping our gin and tonics, and I was telling her some story that I don't even vaguely remember now, but which must've been gripping enough, as she listened intensely and occasionally interrupted me to exclaim, in her New York accent, "Get outta here!" Every "get outta here" was accompanied by a wide-eyed dropping of the jaw and a friendly but forceful push against the side of my leg. Until she finally shoved so hard that I fell off my barstool. We weren't even drunk.</p> <p>Living in New York City, in general, could be a challenge when it came to personal space. Riding the packed subway – bodies pressed against bodies, other people's breath on the back of my neck, arms intertwined as everyone tried to hold on to the pole – did occasionally feel exhilarating, but more often than that it made me feel like a squeezed lemon on the verge of a nervous breakdown.</p> <p>Later, when I was in my early thirties, I spent a few years living in the south of France. There, as if the mere fact of having to kiss people when first being introduced to them weren't enough, one is expected to kiss them not once, not twice, but three times, on alternating cheeks. <em>Noblesse oblige</em>. Of course, there was something to be said for the immediate sense of intimacy and camaraderie that this kissing of complete strangers gave rise to. But sometimes, it got to be too much, especially when it came to people I knew I probably wouldn't become friends with. So, on more than one occasion, my boyfriend and I would be strolling down the street, he'd recognize some acquaintance of his and head over to greet them, and I'd walk off in the other direction, pretending we weren't together, so that I wouldn't have to kiss some random person that I'd never see again.</p> <p>These days, of course, everything is different.</p> <p>In the spring, when the global pandemic was declared and everyone had to start social distancing, I thought that all these years of being aware of how personal space can oscillate, adjusting how I handle it according to different people, places, and situations, and sometimes even playing around with it, would have equipped me to deal with this "new reality" and helped me adapt to it more easily.</p> <p>But it hasn't, not really. In many ways, out of the countless challenges of this "new reality," I've found the lack of physical closeness one of the hardest to deal with. Though I find it unpleasant and it makes it hard to breathe, I got used to wearing a facemask in public places. I got used to coming home and immediately rushing into the bathroom to scrub my hands with scalding water and soap for 20 seconds. I got used to wiping my phone down with rubbing alcohol, teaching a class on Zoom, being unable to go to my favorite yoga studio, and waiting in line outside the supermarket. I even got used to not traveling, which for someone who has been on the move constantly pretty much all their life, has been no easy feat.</p> <p>But not touching, hugging, or kissing friends, family, and loved ones – even strangers, if I'm being honest – has been pretty crushing. It's kind of amazing, and perhaps quite revealing, that I first heard the French phrase <em>crève-cœur</em> and learned what it means not during my three-year sojourn in France, nor during the disintegration of my relationship with my French boyfriend, which eventually put an end to that sojourn, but only a couple of weeks ago, while listening to President Macron's address to the nation, in which he asked people to abstain from getting together with friends and family, "même si c'est un crève-cœur." Even if it causes heartbreak.</p> <p>As I write this, Bulgaria is preparing to go into another lockdown, which is likely to last until spring, so I'm bracing myself for a long fall and miserable winter of social distancing and no physical contact. Thankfully, the numbers weren't so bad during the summer, so the measures were temporarily relaxed and it was possible to go out and get together with friends I hadn't seen for months. In spite of recommendations against it, we would hug tightly when saying hello and goodbye, and sometimes, unable to help ourselves, even in the middle of sitting together. It felt as though we were trying to stock up on physical touch, just like you have to build up reserves of Vitamin D in the summer, which are then supposed to carry you through the winter.</p> <p>I don't have a clear idea of how it's all going to unfold. I don't think anybody does. I do know that I'll have to find other ways – other languages – to feel close to the people I love. I'm trying to be grateful for the small blessings. Lockdown has actually made it easier to stay in (virtual, if not physical) touch with friends in faraway places – something I've never been very good about. It's allowed me to spend more time with my mom, though I've been keeping more of a physical distance from her than usual. It's given me the chance to sit down and look through old photo albums and remember friendships and journeys I haven't thought about in a long time. It's provided an opportunity to start making my way though friends' books, manuscripts, translations, and other creative projects, to which I wasn't able to give the attention they deserved before.</p> <p>Still, none of these activities can ever fully compensate for the real thing, so I very much hope that we'll be able to touch one another again before too long. And I'm not alone in this, apparently: according to several studies, most people mention "hugging my loved ones" as one of the first things they want to do once the pandemic is over.</p> <p>In the meantime, as I figure things out, it looks like my mom's poor cats are going to have to bear the brunt as the sole recipients of all my physical affection, which has nowhere else to go now. By the end of the lockdown in the spring, the sight of me with my arms outstretched was enough to send the two of them running away to hide in unreachable corners. But they're both British Shorthairs, a breed that's also known as the Cheshire Cat. So for the time being I guess they'll have to grin and bear it. </p> <p><strong>Ekaterina Petrova</strong> <em>is a literary translator and nonfiction writer. She holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Iowa, an MSc in European Politics from the London School of Economics, and a BA in International Studies and German Studies from Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN. Currently based in Sofia, she has also spent time living, studying, and/or working in Kuwait, New York, Berlin, Cuba, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, and the south of France. </em></p> <p> </p> <p><strong>Close to Home workshop</strong><em> is part of the Alone Together, the virtual edition of CapitaLiterature in 2020, implemented with the support of the Embassy of the United States to Bulgaria and Sofia Municipality's Cultural Calendar.</em></p> <p> </p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div class="uk-panel"><img class="uk-align-left uk-margin-remove-adjacent" alt="EK_Logo.jpg" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V135-136/EK_Logo.jpg" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION" width="50%" /> THE <a href="http://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</a> and VAGABOND, Bulgaria's English Monthly, cooperate in order to enrich the English language with translations of contemporary Bulgarian writers. Every year we give you the chance to read the work of a dozen young and sometimes not-so-young Bulgarian writers that the EKF considers original, refreshing and valuable. Some of them have been translated in English for the first time. The EKF has decided to make the selection of authors' work and to ensure they get first-class English translation, and we at VAGABOND are only too happy to get them published in a quality magazine. Enjoy our fiction pages.</div> </div> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-170" hreflang="en">Issue 170</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/culture/creative-non-fiction" hreflang="en">CREATIVE NON-FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=2875&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="LLEW9VXt8PWRwNPP2iGre5CkJZCSli5SCCnsr0tjhMs"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 30 Nov 2020 09:29:22 +0000 DimanaT 2875 at http://vagabond.bg http://vagabond.bg/index.php/too-far-comfort-2875#comments CHILDREN OF IMMIGRANTS http://vagabond.bg/index.php/children-immigrants-323 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">CHILDREN OF IMMIGRANTS</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Kapka Kassabova</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 07/31/2019 - 06:44</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>An essay written for the Writing About Immigration edition of the June 2019 Sozopol Fiction Seminars of the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Writers often find their true material through the subconscious mind. The obsession that has guided me to my truest writing always emerged more intuitively than consciously. A writer develops, over time, this ability to tap into a reservoir of knowledge, imagination, memory, and feeling that exists both at the individual level and the collective. You go into a dark, place full of buried treasure, where anything is possible, and begin your quest for your true story. You are fuelled, all along, by the particular energy of your subject.</p> <p>My imagination is fuelled by the spirit of a particular place. It is a strong sense for a place that hooks me first, before I even know what the principal enquiry will be. For a story-teller, the best places are like a narcotic – you enter the circle and become addicted enough to give that place years of your life, to take risks, to merge with its essential spirit, to tune into its voices and listen – really listen. To drop your preconceptions and encounter as equals the living and the dead who inhabit that place. And to emerge with something worth giving form to. The energy and intent which fuel a writer's work will be directly received by the reader. This is why art should affect us physically and emotionally, not just intellectually.</p> <p>Sometimes you lose yourself in the process – a side effect of total immersion – and this becomes part of the journey. Although the archetypal Hero's Journey that forms the basis of most human narratives, is circular, you can never return to the same place, because all true journeys must transform us – inner or outer, literary or geographical, physical or spiritual, or all of the above. For my four books of creative non-fiction, I undertook just such labyrinthine journeys through time and space. This includes my most urban book, Twelve Minutes of Love: A Tango Story, which traces the story of the Argentine tango, the mongrel music of immigrants. The tango became the creative confluence of European emigrants to the New World, African music imported by sub-Saharan slaves into Latin America, and the urban working class of immigrants and dispossessed gauchos in Uruguay and Argentina. Border and To the Lake (2020) explore Balkan narratives and geographies. Despite their cultural and geographic specificity, these narratives tap into universal human experience.</p> <p>It was only recently that I clearly saw the recurring thread in all my writing: journeying and migration. Migration and its accompanying themes of loss, reinvention, and how memory and emotion is held by people and places affected by it. Especially when there is no memorialisation on a collective level, when there has been no consistent process of truth and reconciliation, no communal "coming to terms with the past," and therefore – no societal healing for the deep wounds sustained by millions of people and their descendants. This is the case with Bulgaria, and with all other Balkan nations. That's us. We are all survivors of history. But survival is not enough. If the definition of trauma is repetition, in the words of the American child psychiatrist Selma Freiberg ("Trauma demands repetition, repetition, repetition," she wrote), we must bring the light of understanding and self-knowledge to the process, if we are to break the repetitive cycle.</p> <p>I am the fourth generation in a female line to emigrate. A hundred years ago, my great-grandmother from Ohrid emigrated from the Kingdom of Yugoslavia to the Kingdom of Bulgaria. That country later became the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and most recently – North Macedonia. Her only daughter, my grandmother, emigrated from the Federative People's Republic of Yugoslavia to the People's Republic of Bulgaria. My mother, an only child, emigrated with her family from Bulgaria to New Zealand, and I emigrated from New Zealand to Scotland, which may yet break away from the United Kingdom. We became serial emigrants. Restlessness, along with political upheaval, became an inherited condition. As the changing names of these countries suggest, the uprootings in our family and numberless others were triggered by cataclysmic geo-political forces: the fall of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires, decolonisation, and the rise of Balkan nation-states; then the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913 and the two world wars that followed on from that; the Cold War, its end, and globalisation. Yet our family is not an exception. Today, over twenty per cent of Bulgarians live outside the country. Mass diasporas, nations within nations, have become a cross-generational phenomenon in many world cities. The pattern of displacement in our family is typical of the collective destiny of the people of the Balkans in the 20th and early 21st century, and representative of the constantly shifting currents and counter-currents of trans-continental human migration.</p> <p>In childhood, my favourite book was an illustrated Ancient Greek Myths and Legends. The fascination of those archetypal narratives lay in the fact that there was always a journey. It was rarely pleasant and often ended in disaster, but it was always of great consequence and eventfulness. Shape-shifting and transformation was inevitable once you were on the road or on the open sea.</p> <p>Once upon a time in what is now Lebanon, a Phoenician princess called Europa had a dream: two continents in the shape of women wrestled over her. They were Asia and a smaller continent to the west, linked by a strait over the Pontus Euxinos – the Black Sea with the Bosphorus. Though it was Asia that had raised the princess, it was the other continent that won the wrestling match. Soon after Europa's dream, a bull with golden horns appeared. She straddled him and off they sailed to Crete. The bull was of course an avatar of that primordial lecher Zeus. Europa gave birth to Minos. Minos's wife fell for a bull and gave birth to the Minotaur – a prisoner in the labyrinth of the collective unconscious. The Minotaur, a freak of nature and a child of nature, is a compelling figure. An embodiment of the "physics of sorrow", in Georgi Gospodinov's novel. Seemingly the ultimate "other," he reflects back at us our humanity and our bestiality.</p> <p>The European origin myth is Eastern, pastoralist, pagan. It is rooted in migration and metamorphosis, and the two are related. The Pontic region and south-east Balkans were home to Europe's earliest civilisations – no wonder the Balkan peninsula carries the memory of ancient events and peoples. But also of extraordinary, unsung, unreported odysseys in the last one hundred years, during which people were forced to become the "other" by crossing a border. It is not a coincidence that I, the child of immigrants, have intuitively followed these grooves of migration, with the desire to memorialise those – like us – who were absent from official history accounts. But in the telling of the stories that make up Border and To The Lake, two things became clear. One, we are all without exception children of immigrants and survivors; it's just a question of time-scale. Two, so are the unborn of today. They are the immigrants of tomorrow. The borders erected by the fathers will come back to haunt the children – just like in a Greek tragedy, where it was all preventable until the last moment.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>Kapka Kassabova is a cross-genre writer with an interest in human geographies. She is the author of three books of creative non-fiction: <em>Street Without a Name</em> (2008), <em>Twelve Minutes of Love</em> (2011) and <em>Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe</em> (Granta/ Greywolf, 2017) which won the British Academy Al-Rodhan Prize, Saltire Book of the Year, Stanford-Dolman Book of the Year, the Highland Book Prize, and was shortlisted for the National Circle of Critics Award in the United States. The essay <em>Border Ghosts</em> was shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize. Her work has been translated into 15 languages. Kapka lives in Scotland.</strong></p> <p> </p> <p><strong><img alt="Elizabeth Kostova foundation" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V135-136/EK_Logo.jpg" style="margin: 10px;" title="Elizabeth Kostova foundation" width="30%" />THE <a href="http://ekf.bg/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</span></a> and VAGABOND, Bulgaria's English Monthly, cooperate in order to enrich the English language with translations of contemporary Bulgarian writers. Every year we give you the chance to read the work of a dozen young and sometimes not-so-young Bulgarian writers that the EKF considers original, refreshing and valuable. Some of them have been translated in English for the first time. The EKF has decided to make the selection of authors' work and to ensure they get first-class English translation, and we at VAGABOND are only too happy to get them published in a quality magazine. Enjoy our fiction pages.</strong></p> </div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-154" hreflang="en">Issue 154</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/culture/creative-non-fiction" hreflang="en">CREATIVE NON-FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=323&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="3gs1bfrFfs-DBDKxYwHn4fTDSiaaAQA3szo7OM5Ywg0"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 31 Jul 2019 03:44:37 +0000 DimanaT 323 at http://vagabond.bg http://vagabond.bg/index.php/children-immigrants-323#comments A SHADOW JOURNEY GOES TO NEW YORK CITY, WASHINGTON DC http://vagabond.bg/index.php/shadow-journey-goes-new-york-city-washington-dc-547 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">A SHADOW JOURNEY GOES TO NEW YORK CITY, WASHINGTON DC</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Mon, 02/25/2019 - 16:56</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Dozens of diplomats, entrepreneurs, expats and people with an interest in Bulgaria braved America's East Coast January snow storms and sub-zero temperatures to attend the presentations of <a href="https://www.vagabond.bg/fsi/en/shadow-journey.html" rel="noopener" target="_blank">A Shadow Journey: A Guide to Elizabeth Kostova's Bulgaria and Eastern Europe</a> in New York City and Washington DC.</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="/index.php/sites/default/files/2020-06/shadow%20journey%20launch%20washington%20DC.jpg"></a> </span> <img loading="lazy" src="/sites/default/files/2020-06/shadow%20journey%20launch%20washington%20DC.jpg" width="800" height="549" alt="shadow journey launch washington DC.jpg " title="Lynn Daft from the America for Bulgaria Foundation and Lynda Daft, American Ambassador to Bulgaria Eric Rubin and former American Ambassador John Beyrle attended the Washington DC presentation" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>The book is one of the latest publications by the Free Speech International Foundation. It covers the real-life locations and explains the backgrounds and the details embedded in Kostova's bestselling novels, <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><a href="http://www.elizabethkostova.com/thehistorian" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Historian</a></span> and <a href="http://www.elizabethkostova.com/theshadowland" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">The Shadow Land</span></a>, an informed and entertaining guidebook for anyone who will become interested in Bulgaria and its people and history after experiencing their fictionalised versions.</p> <p>Elizabeth Kostova was a part of the event, answering questions on her creative process, her connection to Bulgaria and the real-life inspiration for her novels. Though directly inspired by Kostova's novels, A Shadow Journey is a lot more than just a literary travel guide as it covers many areas of life in Bulgaria such as Bulgarian cuisine, folk as opposed to <em>Chalga</em> music, Bulgaria's rusting public monuments, the remains of Communist-era labour camps, the Orthodox churches and monasteries and what they stand for, Bulgaria's infatuation with <em>Rakiya</em> and its inimitable way of giving directions to strangers.</p> <p><img title="Shadow journey: A Guide to Elizabeth Kostova's Bulgaria and Eastern Europe" src="/images/stories/V149/book_launch/140119-4074.jpg" alt="Shadow journey" width="100%" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Authors Anthony Georgieff, Dimana Trankova and Elizabeth Kostova</em></p> <p>Travelling through real-life landscapes often surpasses literature, which is particularly relevant in the case of Bulgaria that from an US perspective remains one of the least known locations in Europe.</p> <p>The events in the Bulgarian Embassy in Washington DC and the Bulgarian Consulate General in New York City were attended also by people with long-standing links to Bulgaria, like the American Ambassador to Bulgaria Eric Rubin, former American Ambassador John Beyrle, and members of the Board of Directors of the America for Bulgaria Foundation Gail Buyske, Gary MacDougal, Lynn Daft and their families.</p> <p>The book is in the better bookshops in Bulgaria as well as on Amazon in the United States and the UK. It can also be ordered directly from the publishers on <a href="http://www.vagabond.bg ">www.vagabond.bg </a></p> <p><img title="Shadow Journey book launch" src="/images/stories/V149/book_launch/IMG_11275_copy.jpg" alt="Shadow Journey book launch" width="100%" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Gary MacDougal and Gail Buyske from the ABF and their spouses were among the people who attended the New York event</em></p> <p> </p> <p><img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="Shadow Journey book launch" src="/images/stories/V149/book_launch/140119-4071.jpg" alt="Shadow Journey book launch" width="60%" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Bulgarian Ambassador to the United States Tihomir Stoytchev hosted the Washington DC event</em></p> <p> </p> <p><img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="Shadow Journey book launch" src="/images/stories/V149/book_launch/140119-1286.jpg" alt="Shadow Journey book launch" width="60%" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Lubka Stoytcheva and Elizabeth Kostova</em></p></div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-149" hreflang="en">Issue 149</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/culture/creative-non-fiction" hreflang="en">CREATIVE NON-FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=547&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="aRfU91eGZV02ThLix2i4FV0w9f2WaQxWrX8btTmIoAU"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 25 Feb 2019 14:56:34 +0000 DimanaT 547 at http://vagabond.bg http://vagabond.bg/index.php/shadow-journey-goes-new-york-city-washington-dc-547#comments FROM PETERSBURG WITH LOVE, AN EXCERPT FROM A TRAVELOGUE http://vagabond.bg/index.php/petersburg-love-excerpt-travelogue-580 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">FROM PETERSBURG WITH LOVE, AN EXCERPT FROM A TRAVELOGUE</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Svilen Georgiev; translated from the Bulgarian by Ekaterina Petrova</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Tue, 11/27/2018 - 14:25</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>A text by the 2017 creative non-fiction Sozopol Seminars fellow and CapitaLiterature participant Svilen Georgiev</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p><em>Russia's former imperial capital captivates visitors with its history, </em></p> <p><em>its culture, and the splendid riches of its palaces </em></p> <p><em>The dark river flows and does not sleep, </em></p> <p><em>it whispers quietly, tells tales to keep, </em></p> <p><em>about tsars, tsaritsas, and their palaces, </em></p> <p><em>about their past of glory and their countless odysseys. </em></p> <p><em>The river knows, it's seen it all, through this enormous town it's always flown, </em></p> <p><em>under many bridges it now runs, so that its loyal night guards they become. </em></p> <p><em>They gather together, tear apart, fascinate and prettily enhance. </em></p> <p><em>Bring us to it with their embrace. </em></p> <p><em>A boat sails by, then quietness befalls. </em></p> <p><em>And in the quietness, a love is born. </em></p> <p> </p> <p>The light from the street lamps is bouncing on the surface of the water as though an Impressionist painter's brush is caressing the canvas with rebellious strokes. Seagulls are hovering over the river, their throaty screams greeting the boats that are cruising along. The song "Kiss Me" by Sixpence None The Richer is heard from one of the boats, like an unplanned greeting to the romantic couples strolling along the banks. Over their heads, bunches of balloons are tangled up in the wires over the bridges, probably released from one of the boats. The romantic mood is interrupted only by a group of jet skis that zoom past and down the river. It is almost 11pm, but it is still as light as if the sun has only just set. That's what the month of August is like in Russia's erstwhile capital.</p> <p>Saint Petersburg is a city of contrasts. And pleasing contrasts at that. Between an aristocratic history and a glitzy modernity, between the boundless soul of the East and the pragmatism of the West, between the ostentatious imperial pompousness inherited from the Russian tsars and the slightly nihilistic and casual worldview of the city's contemporary inhabitants. We can already sense these surprising contrasts when we arrive at the airport. We get into a taxi and its driver, a friendly older man in a cardigan, greets us. I blurt out the address of the apartment we've rented through Airbnb, the driver puts on his glasses, curiously mumbles, "I wonder where that might be?" and leans forward. One might expect him to take an ancient city map out of the glove compartment, but he says the address aloud instead, the GPS system automatically recognizes it and pulls up the route on the screen. We whizz to the center in 25 minutes, almost without stopping, along an eight-lane boulevard that doesn't have even a single turn in it (welcome to Russia where things have a different scale). The boulevard is lined with old buildings from the socialist era, on whose façades contemporary neon signs for restaurants and shops now glow. Most of them are in Russian – even the Starbucks sign is written in Cyrillic. We finally reach our destination. The building we're staying in is probably the only one in the area that's not a designated monument of culture, though I can't be sure, as the city center seems to be chock-full of palaces. In the next few days, I notice so many palaces that I eventually come to the conclusion that the local aristocratic families must have built themselves a new home every year, but that's another topic. Our landlady Masha, although she isn't wearing glasses or a cardigan, or speaking into a GPS system, is just as friendly as our driver, when she tells us that she's about to open a fearsome door with a fearsome key. Located on the second floor of a stately apartment building, the unmarked metal door in question opens with a blood-chilling screech, worthy of a horror film whose soundtrack was composed by Hans Zimmer. Since the place is a former communal apartment, and is now divided into two parts, another door to the left of the shabby entrance hall now leads to the part belonging to Maria. A recent biology graduate from the Saint Petersburg State University, our host caresses the black display at the door and it flickers, then Maria passes an electronic chip over it, and the door opens on its own. We cross the threshold while the electronic lock automatically closes behind our backs. I feel as though I'm in The Matrix. This is steampunk and sci-fi mixed into one. But rather than making us choose between a blue pill and a red pill, Maria shows us into a cozy and spotlessly clean apartment, where everything is new and from Ikea, and whose ceilings must be at least 13 feet high. The windows have built-in nooks, where one can sit or lay down and gaze at the Fontanka River across the street. The Fontanka is the Neva River's biggest branch, which is quite an accomplishment when you consider the competition. Saint Petersburg is crisscrossed by a total of 93 rivers and channels (with hundreds of bridges over them), turning it into one of the many cities that have been nicknamed Venice of the North and lending the city a uniquely romantic atmosphere. There are numerous tourist boats constantly cruising along the rivers and channels, and some of them even host mobile parties with music and dancing. It is most interesting to go on a night cruise (which usually leaves at least an hour after midnight), when the vessels get to sail underneath the raised wings of the drawbridges. There is actually no shortage of interesting tours in Saint Petersburg, and perhaps the most unusual one among them takes visitors around via the city's rooftops. Although we don't go on it ourselves, I occasionally spot young people peering down from the old buildings' rooftops during our visit.</p> <p>Masha starts to complain that the government isn't investing the money from her taxes into repairing the potholed streets. "Good thing you haven't seen those of Sofia," I think to myself, because the streets here seem to be in good shape. If they weren't, the Russian drivers wouldn't be able to drive along them in their usual fast and aggressive manner. This driving is also made possible by the mighty local car fleet. Of course, besides the fancy latest model cars, one can also spot the occasional old Lada, like the grubby one that's been parked in front of our building. Its owner must have given up on washing it or perhaps is a fan of muddy off-road driving, because he's placed a sign on the rear windshield that says, "The dirty tank is invisible in battle!"</p> <p>Nevertheless, Maria gives us some useful tips on what sights to visit and when. She tells us to go over to the nearby Rubinstein Street, named after the composer and pianist Anton Rubinstein, who in 1862 founded Russia's first conservatory, where Tchaikovsky himself was a student. The street turns out to have connection to Bulgarian history as well. Located at No. 15-17 is the beautiful home with the high Renaissance arches, which was constructed in 1910-1912 under the aegis of Major-General Count Mikhail Pavlovich Tolstoy, who commanded the Third, and then the First Opalchentsi Brigades during the Russo-Turkish War and fought at the frontlines during the Shipka Pass battles. Nowadays, the artsy street is filled with trendy restaurants, bars, and Irish pubs, where one can easily spend a pleasant evening at not too high a price. All in all, Saint Petersburg does not turn out to be any more expensive than Sofia, as we were warned before coming. Some things here are even cheaper, such as the public transport, for which the passengers buy their tickets after they board from conductors who squeeze through the crowd and give advice to the tourists on where to get off and how to orient themselves.</p> <p>Before she say goodbye, Sharapova's namesake asks us if we have WhatsApp or FaceTime, in order to avoid calling her cell phone, since calls to Russia from Bulgarian phones cost 7 leva (around 3.50 euro) a minute . . . After she leaves, we find ourselves on our own, with the rain trickling down the windows in the Saint Petersburg night. We don't mind it. Neither do the city's residents, who have grown used to it a long time ago. It has become one of the local attractions – appearing suddenly, falling lightly, then stopping, before starting once again . . . Keeping it company is the wind, which rushes in along the channels and rivers all the way from the Baltic Sea's Gulf of Finland. We are located far up in the North and have to get used to the weather conditions. A local joke, which sums them up well, goes like this:</p> <p>"What's the weather like in Peter (as Saint Petersburg is colloquially known)?"</p> <p>"It's raining."</p> <p>"Has it been raining for a long time?"</p> <p>"Since 1703."</p> <p>If you're wondering why 1703 precisely, that was the year that the city was founded. It was then that Peter the Great decided to turn the area's swampy marshlands into an exemplary city that would demonstrate Russia's growing might and its opening up to the West. The architectural and decorative splendor that gradually accumulated as a result is so impressive that even today the city's more sensitive visitors get a headache from the brilliance of all the gold that is gathered here.</p> <p>Peter the Great's present-day heirs have found a solution to the wind and rain problem – the special water-repellant and reinforced umbrellas, which are decorated with Saint Petersburg's most famous sights and available for sale everywhere. We head out to see those sights the next morning, which is also when we discover that this "Venice of the North" can also be quite sunny. Fortunately, we're staying just a stone's throw away from the city's central boulevard, Nevsky Prospect. Our walk down the boulevard begins at the Anichkov Bridge, whose four corners boast statues of a bronze young man in various stages of taming wild horses. What is interesting is that two of the horses from the statues have horseshoes, while the other two do not. According to the legend, during the eighteenth century, there used to be foundries and blacksmiths' workshops near the bridge, which is why the horses "coming" from there are shod, while those on the other side of the bridge are not, since they haven't yet reached the blacksmiths' workshops.</p> <p><strong>Svilen Georgiev is the former editor-in-chief of  <em>InGlobo</em> and is currently looking to bring the now defunct magazine back to life. During his career as a writer and editor he has worked and published with a number of print and online media. In his work he often embraces creative non-fiction as a means of expression. His interest in the field has led to a substantial amount of travel writing, essays and journalistic stories about people, events and processes portrayed with purely literary techniques. Besides non-fiction, he writes also fiction and poetry as a hobby.</strong></p> <p> </p> <p><strong><a href="https://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img style="margin: 5px; float: left;" title="Elizabeth Kostova Foundation" src="/images/stories/V137/EK_Logo.jpg" alt="Elizabeth Kostova Foundation" width="30%" /></a>THE <a href="https://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</span></a> and VAGABOND, Bulgaria's English Monthly, cooperate in order to enrich the English language with translations of contemporary Bulgarian writers and original works of English-language writers emerging from the EKF’s international programs. Every year we give you the chance to read the work of a dozen young and sometimes not-so-young Bulgarian and English-language writers that the EKF considers original, refreshing and valuable. Some of the Bulgarian authors have been translated into English for the first time. Enjoy our fiction and creative non-fiction pages.</strong></p> <p> </p></div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-146" hreflang="en">Issue 146</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/culture/creative-non-fiction" hreflang="en">CREATIVE NON-FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=580&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="LqHZ8gk9HbDga3esR8VlVG3RVtRrSwZHAgNvPfJ6tEE"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Tue, 27 Nov 2018 12:25:32 +0000 DimanaT 580 at http://vagabond.bg http://vagabond.bg/index.php/petersburg-love-excerpt-travelogue-580#comments KAPKA KASSABOVA'S BORDER WINS BRITISH ACADEMY'S PRIZE http://vagabond.bg/index.php/kapka-kassabovas-border-wins-british-academys-prize-584 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">KAPKA KASSABOVA&#039;S BORDER WINS BRITISH ACADEMY&#039;S PRIZE</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 10/31/2018 - 14:56</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>We are pleased and happy to announce that Vagabond's long-standing contributor, Kapka Kassabova, has just won the 2018 British Academy’s Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding worth £25,000.</h3> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field__items"> <div class="images-container clearfix"> <div class="image-preview clearfix"> <div class="image-wrapper clearfix"> <div class="field__item"> <div class="overlay-container"> <span class="overlay overlay--colored"> <span class="overlay-inner"> <span class="overlay-icon overlay-icon--button overlay-icon--white overlay-animated overlay-fade-top"> <i class="fa fa-plus"></i> </span> </span> <a class="overlay-target-link image-popup" href="/index.php/sites/default/files/2020-06/kapka%20kassabova.jpg"></a> </span> <img loading="lazy" src="/sites/default/files/2020-06/kapka%20kassabova.jpg" width="900" height="675" alt="kapka kassabova.jpg" title="Kapka Kassabova" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p><em>Border</em>, her memoir-cum-travelogue about Bulgaria's southeastern frontier from Communism to the present, was published in 2017 to international acclaim. The book explores the history, trauma and memories of a region that brings together three Balkans states: Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. According to the jury, Border won because it "contributed to global cultural understanding" and "illuminates the interconnections and divisions that shape cultural identity worldwide."</p> <p>Since its publication, <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><a href="https://kapka-kassabova.net/books/border-a-journey-to-the-edge-of-europe/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe</em></a></span> was shortlisted for several major prizes, and won the 2017 Saltire Book of the Year Award in Scotland.</p> <p>Bulgarian-born Kapka Kassabova has lived in New Zealand and is currently based in Scotland. She writes fiction, non-fiction and poetry in English, and has become one of the most recognisable voices of Bulgaria. She has been with Vagabond from the very start. More on <em>Border</em> <a href="interviews/item/3656-border-a-journey-to-the-edge-of-europe.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">here</span>.</a></p> <p>Earlier this year Kapka Kassabova wrote the introductory <a href="culture/art/item/4012-you-ll-take-the-high-road.html"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">essay</span></a> to <em>The High Road, Photography From Scotland</em>, a photography exhibition by Vagabond editor Anthony Georgieff, displayed in Sofia, Burgas and Veliko Tarnovo.</p></div> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/106" hreflang="en">Web Exclusive</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/culture/creative-non-fiction" hreflang="en">CREATIVE NON-FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=584&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="R_HHz-sQjvm12HbArMZFukGnpO0I295Np6azpsxPRLk"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 31 Oct 2018 12:56:16 +0000 DimanaT 584 at http://vagabond.bg http://vagabond.bg/index.php/kapka-kassabovas-border-wins-british-academys-prize-584#comments WHEN WE WERE VIKINGS, An excerpt from a travel essay http://vagabond.bg/index.php/when-we-were-vikings-excerpt-travel-essay-597 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">WHEN WE WERE VIKINGS, An excerpt from a travel essay</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Kate Angus</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 10/18/2018 - 11:35</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>A text by the 2017 creative non-fiction Sozopol Seminars fellow and CapitaLiterature participant KATE ANGUS</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>The sun doesn't set in the summer there so we played cards for hours in the ceaseless twilight; during the daytime, we hiked an old Viking trail. We carried our backpacks through the wilderness and set up camp each night by rivers and waterfalls. We found a fragment of whale bone on the seashore, curved and large as a giant's tooth. It was porous, but as heavy as the stones surrounding it. We foraged for horsetail reeds and rose root to make a tea Icelandic legend claims brings prophetic dreams – we wanted to learn our futures as we slept in the skin-thin tents perched precariously atop moss and lava rock. Sometimes some of us would satellite away from main camp to lie down side by side in mossy hollows and share chocolate bars and smuggled whiskey. One woman wove a crown of seaweed she wore every day; another woman fell in a river and watched her hat sail gaily away towards the Arctic Ocean. The man none of us liked capsized his kayak in the fjord so we rowed to shore pulling him as the vessel filled with water and sank behind us.</p> <p>On the cliffs, we scaled glacial ice and leapt from stone to stone across rivers at the crest just before the water cascaded down the slope in torrents. On the coastline, we slogged through knee-deep kelp, and I told the sculptor that I felt like I was wading through a giant birth canal because the seaweed was wet and thick and dark red as placenta. Sometimes the trail was a dirt road and once – very briefly – we had the luxury of pavement; often there wasn't a trail so when we continued with the road we walked blindly across loose stones in the direction lion-haired Henry pointed. On the easy days, we followed paths the sheep left when their hooves crushed the moss into an indentation like a ribbon that wound around thickets of teeth-shorn bilberry bushes. On the hardest day, we grabbed sparse handfuls of bracken to help hoist ourselves up the slope because the scree field footing was too uncertain. When the wind snagged my backpack, yanking me sideways, and part of the bracken roots pulled loose, I looked down and thought <em>I could die here</em>.</p> <p>In the middle of one endless afternoon, we found an abandoned house in an empty valley. There was a broken bed inside (rusty coils protruding like strange flowers from the stained mattress fabric) and a sign in Icelandic that our guides refused to decipher.</p> <p>The Irish painter picked up a mostly-full bottle of red wine from the floor and took a swig.</p> <p>"It's good."</p> <p>And then when she told us, "Have some. You can't refuse gifts from the trail gods," we did what she said and then kept walking.</p> <p>****<br />According to the principles of journalism, I need to answer the following questions:</p> <p><em>Where [did this happen]?</em></p> <p>In the Westfjords in northwestern Iceland. On a peninsula full of fjords and sharp cliffs – when you look at it on a map, it looks as if its coastline was made by someone anxious who loves scissors and calmed herself by cutting dozens of tiny incisions into the paper where the land meets water.</p> <p><em>How [did you get there]?</em></p> <p>By seeing a listing on an international artists' residency website and, insomnia-ridden, applying late at night. By culling a collection of personal essays and poems. By writing an artist's statement full of eloquent lies stating I was experienced in outdoors activities like foraging. By having aesthetic overlap with the residency committee or maybe someone just didn't want to decide so he threw darts at the stacks of paper he'd been sent to evaluate and one dart landed on my application. By then entering a process of borrowing (a sleeping bag from Suzie, my dad's backpack) and buying (hiking boots I broke in running errands in Manhattan). Through gifts and stipend and debt. By riding one airplane over the cold blue sea to Reykjavik and another one across volcanic fields to Isafjordur.</p> <p><em>Who [was with you]?</em></p> <p>Three writers and nine artists. Seven of us were from the United States (mostly Brooklyn), but there was also a novelist from London and a Scottish guide, an Australian video artist who told us about Aboriginal sacred rocks, the Irish painter, and the man no one liked who was Canadian.</p> <p><em>Why [were you there]?</em></p> <p>Because the previous year, grief clamped its iron teeth around me and I flailed like a fox in a metal jaw trap; I hoped going to the wilderness would be a way of gnawing free. I thought if I stayed in New York, I would claw my own skin off.</p> <p><em>What [caused that sorrow]?</em></p> <p>That happens in a different essay, not this one.</p> <p>****<br />The main traces left by the Vikings on the land are twofold: the absence of trees, the presence of horses. When this terrain was young, there were forests, but early settlers cut all the trees down and used the timber to build houses and as fuel burned for heat in Iceland's unspeakable winters. Now the only lumber you can find to make a campfire are old fence posts salvaged from abandoned farms and driftwood from other countries that beach here.</p> <p>We associate the Vikings with movement rather than stasis. We imagine the dragon-headed ships slicing through waves and when the raiders disembark, they destroy everything. If a village is an egg, they are the hand that cracks the shell, leaving only shards behind them. Or, to abandon this image, what remains are the charred husks of houses, limbs and wet entrails strewn across the ground – all the livestock and villagers slaughtered who weren't taken as slaves. Rare is the creature (animal or human) left behind who survived them.</p> <p>But the root word <em>vik</em> is surprisingly peaceful; it means "inlet or small bay."</p> <p>In Old Norse, <em>viking</em> is a feminine noun that denotes a voyage overseas – the word means the act, rather than a person.</p> <p>The masculine noun <em>vikingr</em> signifies the seafaring warrior.</p> <p>If you conflate people with language, this means women are an act that's undertaken, as in the Icelandic sagas where <em>fara i viking</em> translates as <em>to go on a raiding expedition</em>, and men are active (all that looting and ransacking; all that rape and pillage).</p> <p>In the early Viking era, the word didn't belong to any particular map. By the 9th century, in Old English, wicing refers to Scandinavian raiders. By Scandinavian, historians mean not only those who come from Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland (here I greet you, my ancestors), but also from areas they settled like the Orkneys, Shetland and Faroe Islands. Like Iceland which was empty of people before the Vikings arrived with their shaggy horses.</p> <p>According to a thread found deep on an Internet site about Viking history, the Germans called them <em>ascomanni</em> or <em>ashmen</em>. I'm not fluent so I don't know if this translation references the soot left behind after their pillaging or the wood used to build their ships or if this is simply what's called a false friend: a coincidence of language that means nothing. It's unfortunate, but you can't always trust what is written. For example, according to the site I found, <em>ascomanni</em> is German, but actually the word is Italian.</p> <p>One thing that we think we know about the Vikings but really is false is that they loaded their dead in ships they set aflame and sent drifting across the water. This is a myth – a distortion of history we believe because the idea is more beautiful than what really happened. In truth, they burned the corpse ships in a pyre on the land; more frequently, they buried their dead in cairns, round rock piles that rose like tumors across the landscape. But sometimes the ships could still be a coffin – the boat buried within the domed stones. Imagine the ship carried into the cairn, how dark the last ocean it would ride was.</p> <p>The Vikings plundered from everyone they encountered, but we keep a handful of words English took from them: knife, plough, leather, axle, crook, raft, bylaw, husband, heathen, ransack, Hell, Wednesday (Woden's day, named for Odin), Thursday (Thor's day), Tuesday for Tyr and Friday for Freya.</p> <p>What we know about the Vikings is that they loved skaldic poetry and wrote on runestones.</p> <p>What we know about the Vikings is that after Erik the Red was banished from Iceland for manslaughter, he settled Norse Greenland and his son Leif settled further, sailing almost 2,000 miles to the New World where he discovered Helluland, <em>land of the flat stones</em>; Markland, <em>the land of forests</em>, and Vinland, <em>the land of wine</em> or, in another translation, <em>meadows</em>. This means the Vikings stepped on the sand of North America's shores before Columbus.</p> <p>What we know is that they left behind iron chisels, ship rivets, chess pieces and oaken ship fragments. Sometimes they traded for furs and food and sometimes they slaughtered peaceful strangers sleeping under skin-covered canoes, but they did not pretend friendship to hand out blankets promising warmth and comfort but that instead delivered smallpox's slow kill. What we know about the Vikings is that they were not interested in treachery; their violence was open and clean.</p> <p>What we know about the Vikings is that they went out and took what they wanted.</p> <p>You never do that; you always worry you might hurt people, you give up, you always ask for permission. Why don't you ever fight for things?</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>KATE ANGUS is the author of the poetry collection <em>So Late to the Party</em> (Negative Capability Press, 2016). Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in <em>The Atlantic</em> online, <em>The Washington Post</em>, <em>Verse Daily</em>, <em>Poetry Daily</em>, <em>Best New Poets 2010</em>, <em>Best New Poets 2014</em> and have been featured on the website for the Academy of American Poets. She is also the founding editor of Augury Books and the Creative Writing Advisor, as well as Chair of the Advisory Board, for the Mayapple Center for Arts and Humanities at Sarah Lawrence College.</strong></p> <p> </p> <p><strong><a href="https://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img style="margin: 5px; float: left;" title="Elizabeth Kostova Foundation" src="/images/stories/V137/EK_Logo.jpg" alt="Elizabeth Kostova Foundation" width="30%" /></a>THE <a href="https://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</span></a> and VAGABOND, Bulgaria's English Monthly, cooperate in order to enrich the English language with translations of contemporary Bulgarian writers and original works of English-language writers emerging from the EKF’s international programs. Every year we give you the chance to read the work of a dozen young and sometimes not-so-young Bulgarian and English-language writers that the EKF considers original, refreshing and valuable. Some of the Bulgarian authors have been translated into English for the first time. Enjoy our fiction and creative non-fiction pages.</strong></p></div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-145" hreflang="en">Issue 145</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/culture/creative-non-fiction" hreflang="en">CREATIVE NON-FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=597&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="EZ9T5BW6hPUqKRPjlfX9I--sN518dxxPIhNZIxFr9dY"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 18 Oct 2018 08:35:02 +0000 DimanaT 597 at http://vagabond.bg http://vagabond.bg/index.php/when-we-were-vikings-excerpt-travel-essay-597#comments IN THE SHADOW OF THE DISEASE, An excerpt from a memoir http://vagabond.bg/index.php/shadow-disease-excerpt-memoir-611 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">IN THE SHADOW OF THE DISEASE, An excerpt from a memoir</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Petya Nakova; translated from the Bulgarian by Ekaterina Petrova</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Tue, 09/04/2018 - 07:41</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>A text by the 2017 creative non-fiction Sozopol Seminars fellow and CapitaLiterature participant Petya Nakova</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>The day I was admitted to the hospital, I just laid there and stared straight ahead—a piece of paper had been stuck to the closet, and the closet was blocking half of the window. Out its other half, I could see some thick black branches. The piece of paper said, "Inventory of Items in Room 7." I had the surgery the next day. I put on my regular pants because my cell phone, which I'd put on silent, could fit into pocket. As if I'd be able to inform anyone what was happening to me while I was under general anaesthesia… They did a biopsy and the express results came back in about 20 minutes. If the tumor was malignant, the surgery would continue. The surgeon came into the operating room and said, "Come on, we're going ahead." They put me under general anaesthesia and started talking about me. "I can still hear you," I told them, and then it was all over and I was waking up. I wanted to get up immediately, to prove to myself that I was fine, to take a look at their faces. I only didn't dare to look down and see whether the surgeon had removed my breast or not.</p> <p>They returned me to my view of the half window with the black branches and leaves, and of the inventory of items. I forced myself to read the small print on the piece of paper. I could comprehend some of the words and cross-checked those with the items available in the room. 1. Five (5) hospital beds; 2. Five (5) nightstands; 3. One (1) thermometer; 4. One (1) closet; 5. One (1) air conditioner; 6. One (1) sink; 7. One (1) mirror. There was no thermometer, but there were six beds and six nightstands.</p> <p>On the third day, snow fell and covered the branches. The fluffy white snow stuck to the black tangle. At night the branches looked like black lines with white strips against the dull red sky's backdrop. It was the city lights that made the sky look dull red.</p> <p>The TV series were the same as those at home – lines, characters, actions. The TV series were a déjà vu. They were the world that remained unchanged, which is why we rooted our gazes into them. </p> <p>I came out of my stupor and turned my head towards the other women in the hospital room. Four of them were between the age of 65 and 75, but they all called one another "grandma."</p> <p>"Where did grandma go?" they'd ask and gesture with their heads to the empty bed of the woman in question.</p> <p>Mariem was like a little ball. She had a strange way of speaking. She said she'd forgotten Bulgarian, because there was no one to speak it with in her village. I gradually began to figure out that she didn't have a very good grasp on verb conjugations. She kept saying "Don't be scary!" to everyone in the room, especially when they called one of us in for surgery. The night before her own surgery, she sat up in bed. I used to sleep during the day, since I couldn't at night, and so I watched her. She sat in the darkness. Just sat there, on her round butt, with her legs stretched out, and her back straight. She wasn't leaning on anything. I'd doze off, then open my eyes again and check on her. She never leaned back against the headboard of the bed, nor used her hand to prop herself up, never bent her knees or her back. She sat like that until dawn, when the orderly entered the room with a noise, switched on all the lights, and woke us up. Mariem saw us staring at her and said, "I'm very scary."</p> <p>Earlier when they'd called me out of the room and told me to head to the operating room, Mariem and her next bed neighbor Fatme had said they'd pray for Allah to help me. Now plump Mariem was going to count on my prayer to the Christian God, but I didn't tell her that.</p> <p>They brought Mariem back after the surgery, and her eyes were half-closed and darkened. Her youthful face, which had been the subject of our teasing about what cream she used on it, was now wrinkled. They put six bags of IV fluids in her and she lay there, as still as she'd been while sitting upright in bed the night before.  Her doctor came by to see her and told her she'd have to take better care of herself from now on. "You need a different husband," he said. We already knew she was happy with her husband. "I need a different life," Mariem replied. "Husbands make them work so hard where she's from," the doctor said as an explanation on his way out. Mariem was from a village near the town of Aytos.</p> <p>She got her blue eyes and smooth skin back in a couple of days. That's when the others asked her why she always sat up straight for so long, and how she did it without propping herself up on anything.</p> <p>"I am propping," she replied. "I open the legs a little and I'm propping the belly on the bed, so I can stay like that."</p> <p>But I kept quiet. I always kept quiet. The only thing I had said, while I was crying once and the women were trying to comfort me, was: "I don't know what the doctor cut out. Do I still have my breast?"</p> <p>"Yes, it's all there," they assured me. "We made sure when they brought you back."</p> <p>Fatme's bed was next to the window. From there, she kept an eye on the three homeless men who lived in the backyard of the hospital.</p> <p>"There's a man lying there," she almost screamed on the first day.</p> <p>We all gathered by the window and were barely able to distinguish the human faces amidst all the duvet covers, the scattered clothes, and the dried leaves. Fatme had obviously spent a long time peering through the window during the two weeks she'd waited for her test results. She hadn't been given a definitive diagnosis.</p> <p>"This is wrong, it's wrong—don't these people have anyone?" she lamented.</p> <p>We wondered if we should offer them the soup and semolina pudding that we were given twice a day, every day, for lunch and for dinner, and which we always collectively refused. We decided it would be an insult to offer such food even to the homeless men.</p> <p>"This isn't right, it's not right," Fatme concluded later. She was no longer lamenting, but making a declaration. "He peed in the same place where he sleeps."</p> <p>Fatme had probably never seen homeless people in her village. When the snow started to fall, she said:</p> <p>"He didn't gather up his blanket. It'll get wet and he'll have to lie in it. Why doesn't he use some plastic to make himself a roof?"</p> <p>"Yes, they're lazy. They could at least try and build themselves some little shacks," the others commented.</p> <p>And they started building those little shacks in their minds, and laying carpets on the floors, as though this would solve the homeless men's problems. But I kept quiet. I always keep quiet. The only thing I said, while I was crying and the women were trying to comfort me, was:</p> <p>"I don't know what the doctor cut out. Do I still have my breast?"</p> <p>"Yes, it's all there," they comforted me. "We made sure when they brought you back."</p> <p>"I look at those two, so young, and I'm sad for them," Fatme would say, referring to me and Vesela who was in the bed next to mine. She looked to be around my age. She would go out, smoke cigarettes, drink coffee, and walk around.</p> <p>"It's how they're fated," Mariem would reply.</p> <p>In the hospital, fate tended to take on more weight. It was clearer than the intertwined black branches covered in fluffy whiteness. I continued looking at them, while the women looked at me and at Vesela.</p> <p>That's how our beds were set up. Our two beds were placed perpendicularly to their four, which in turn were next to one another.</p> <p>"The woman is so full of sin. You never know when she's going to crack," Fatme would say.</p> <p>Four months later, I still didn't feel like talking and didn't know what to say. I was feeling silent on the inside. The disease had gradually alienated me from my acquaintances. The advantage of that was that nobody called me on Easter to say "Christ is Risen!" and so I didn't have to respond with "Indeed, He is Risen." I have no explanation for why I hate saying that. But I've hated it since I was a kid. That Easter, I spent the whole day apprehensively expecting to get a call. But there was no call. In the months since my illness, they had learned to stop bothering me. And yet, somebody did call at the end of the day. A Muslim, who said:</p> <p>"How are you? I wanted to congratulate you on your holiday. Wishing you happiness on Easter!"</p> <p>It was Fatme. Fatme from the hospital. Four months later, she was still grateful  for the two lean soups and the boiled potatoes that my mother had brought for her. Fatme couldn't digest fatty foods because of her illness. I told her: "Fatme, and should I also wish you a happy Easter?"</p> <p>"As you wish," she replied.</p> <p>"Happy Easter to you too!" I said.</p> <p>"May we be healthy and alive, and may God help us all," she said.</p> <p><strong> </strong></p> <p><strong>PETYA NAKOVA was born in 1974 in Sofia. She graduated in mechanical engineering from the Technical University of Sofia, and in cinema and television, from New Bulgarian University. </strong><br /><strong>She is the author of a biographical novel, <em>The Preacher and the Black Horse</em> (Iztok-Zapad, 2012). Her story Bosses Without Guns is a part of the collection<em> If I Were a Boss</em> (President, 2015). Nakova's essays,short stories, and articles have appeared in Trud daily, Kino magazine, 8 magazine, and LiterNet. As a director, she is known with the documentary <em>Roma Quixote</em> (2013, co-directed by Nina Pehlivanova), and <em>Talk to Me</em> (2017).</strong></p> <p> </p> <div> </div> <div><strong><a href="https://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img style="margin: 5px; float: left;" title="Elizabeth Kostova Foundation" src="/images/stories/V137/EK_Logo.jpg" alt="Elizabeth Kostova Foundation" width="30%" /></a>THE <a href="https://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</span></a> and VAGABOND, Bulgaria's English Monthly, cooperate in order to enrich the English language with translations of contemporary Bulgarian writers and original works of English-language writers emerging from the EKF’s international programs. Every year we give you the chance to read the work of a dozen young and sometimes not-so-young Bulgarian and English-language writers that the EKF considers original, refreshing and valuable. Some of the Bulgarian authors have been translated into English for the first time. Enjoy our fiction and creative non-fiction pages.</strong></div></div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-143-144" hreflang="en">Issue 143-144</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/culture/creative-non-fiction" hreflang="en">CREATIVE NON-FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=611&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="CRFEtP6IiCQoKb0l14LpFZOmpa4rOSC5n77J8U1XWYk"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Tue, 04 Sep 2018 04:41:26 +0000 DimanaT 611 at http://vagabond.bg http://vagabond.bg/index.php/shadow-disease-excerpt-memoir-611#comments I'VE BEEN WRONG BEFORE, An excerpt from a memoir http://vagabond.bg/index.php/ive-been-wrong-excerpt-memoir-626 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">I&#039;VE BEEN WRONG BEFORE, An excerpt from a memoir</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Evan James</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/251" lang="" about="/index.php/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Mon, 07/30/2018 - 12:28</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3> A text by the 2017 creative non-fiction Sozopol Seminars fellow and CapitaLiterature participant Evan James </h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>I went out for a run one lightly rainy morning – on Halloween, actually. Movement kept at bay the dreadful sensation that the island hungered to swallow me up, annihilate my spirit. And so I laced up, pulled the hood of an old sweatshirt over my head, and ran along the road that served the beach house. Relief came only when the road fed into a park, and the park into trails that twisted through the woods. My sneakers splashed mud up onto my shins and calves. The woods – rainforest, really, full of wet ferns, thick-trunked fir trees, cedars, small frogs, branches bearded with bright green moss – resounded with the patter and hiss of rainfall. Here I felt wonderfully alive, and like I was, for an egoic moment at least, mastering this place, this lush, sodden land, by mastering myself.</p> <p>Back at the beach house I returned to my downstairs lair, panting. I stripped and showered, relishing the water pressure and heat in the shower, that borrowed shower with stone floor and glass door that steamed up within a minute. I felt comfortable and wealthy inside the shower. When I stepped out, however, and dried myself on a towel belonging to this family I'd never met, and I dressed, and went back upstairs, the strangeness of my circumstances returned to me. I felt the rightful owners of the house could appear at any moment and drive us out.</p> <p>All my inner gripes and worries, though, all my doubts and my compulsion to dissect, all of it melted away when the opportunity to watch TV arose. Though never much of a TV watcher as a teenager – anti-TV liberal Romanticism had its claws in me then; SHOOT YOUR TELEVISION, a bumper sticker on my English teacher's pickup truck had read – I found lately that I missed it, and given half the chance, whether in a hotel room or a housesitting situation, I would binge on its wonderful offerings. Why, I pleaded with TV as I sank into couch, armchair, or bed, why was I ever cruel to you? What came over me? Come back to me, TV, I can change! Sitting in the Eames chair of the absent, nouveau riche Microsoft workers, I turned the TV on. I found Turner Classic Movies. All-day old school horror programming awaited.</p> <p>To my great pleasure, William Castle's The Tingler was on, starring Vincent Price. I fell faintly in love with Vincent Price as the movie got rolling. Vincent Price, his voice somehow shot through with a tone of thrilling perversion. I wished I could become Vincent Price – become a suave, prolific character actor most often cast in villainous roles. I wondered, as I watched Vincent Price play the role of pathologist Dr. Warren Chapin (who discovers a parasite attached to the human spine, the titular Tingler, that feeds upon the fear of its host), whether I could ever have a side career as a screen villain. I would probably have to play the sort of villain that appears cheery and charismatic and well-adjusted, I thought, but who is then found to be a seething psychopath just beneath the surface. People long to be reassured that admirable qualities in others conceal shameful impulses, especially if those others dwell in the public eye; this Puritan-tabloid mindset supports a simplistic conception of truth in which the fallen state constitutes our shared, essential reality. The notion of original sin, I thought as Vincent Price removed the corny, centipede-like Tingler prop from the actress Judith Evelyn during her dead character's autopsy, runs so deep that even many of those who believe themselves atheists – or New Age pantheists – probably still think and feel by its logic. The very idea of redemption feeds and grows upon it, much like the Tingler, which can only be defeated by the frightened screaming of its host, fed and grew upon the fear of Martha, a deaf mute murdered by her movie theater-owning husband, Oliver Higgens, who frightened her to death with what amounted to a series of elaborate pranks, knowing that she couldn't scream and would therefore succumb to the growing, eventually spine-crushing Tingler. At times, I thought, almost all of popular American culture seemed to thrive upon this same addictive lust for redemption – even that which endeavored to subvert its insidious laws often read as little more than tantrum, which is to say a scream of sorts that shrank the Tingler only temporarily. A prolonged shot in the film showed the silhouette of Vincent Price's gloved hands holding a monstrous, wriggling Tingler removed from Martha's corpse behind a surgery curtain. I thought: redemption means regaining ones soul by paying for its loss with a life of virtue; more to the point, it means never really regaining ones soul in life, but devoting ones life to an ongoing penance, enduring temptation and making up for temptation with acts of virtue until death comes, a release. If the Tingler is sin, I thought, then screaming in fright – an expression of that weakness taken for the true essence of humanity, taken for the truth behind any hubris, any stoicism, pride, self-regard, or "boastful" show of strength – is a form of virtue, at least in the cinematic playworld of William Castle. It was one way of doing things, this screamful approach to the Good.</p> <p>My mother returned to the beach house from wherever she'd been. Choir practice, I think.</p> <p>"Ooh, whatcha watching?" she said.</p> <p>"The Tingler, with Vincent Price," I said.</p> <p>She made herself a cup of black tea, then joined me in watching The Tingler, which was a little more than halfway over. "What is that thing? The Tingler?" she said; the Tingler had broken free.</p> <p>"Yes, mother, that's the Tingler," I said. I explained the way the Tingler worked, and summarized the plot developments she'd missed. We laughed each time the Tingler reappeared, for each time it looked more ridiculous, more like the rubber toy that it was.</p> <p>"This is too good," my mother said.</p> <p>The Tingler escaped into the movie theater owned by Oliver Higgins. (In the film, the theater only played silent movies.) There it seized upon a woman's leg, until her screaming drove it away; Vince Price shut the lights off in the theater then, and commanded the whole audience to scream. At last, he and Higgens recaptured the Tingler in the projection room. Price then put the Tingler in question back in Martha's corpse where it belonged, and sewed her up. But Higgins, after confessing guilt to Vincent Price, died after the reintroduced Tingler in Martha sort of reanimated her corpse, making it sit up in bed and scare the murderer husband so severely that he was unable to scream. "Ladies and gentlemen," Vincent Price intoned over the black screen, "just a word of warning. If any of you are not convinced that you have a Tingler of your own, the next time you are frightened in the dark, don't scream."</p> <p>And with that, The Tingler ended.</p> <p>"Wonderful," I said, truly pleased.</p> <p>My mother agreed. "Too funny," she said. After a few minutes of shuffling around in the kitchen, she recalled something she'd wanted to tell me. "Did you know that they're having a memorial service for Bob McAllister tomorrow?"</p> <p>"I didn't know he'd died," I said. Bob McAllister had been a legendary high school teacher for decades, a champion of young writers and actors passing through his classes or theater productions. He wore wildly-patterned ties and colorful Chuck Taylors. His truck bore the SHOOT YOUR TELEVISION bumper sticker. He had opened the minds of many students to the glories of the literary and dramatic arts with his passion. Meanwhile, he'd maintained a reputation for hipness, knowingness, a bohemian, even dangerous friskiness and rebellion.</p> <p>"Lung cancer," my mother said. I recalled now that he often smelled like stale smoke as well. The tips of his fingers were yellowed with tobacco stains. He had lived into his early seventies; my mother and Tad and I had all had him as a teacher. "The service is at the high school," my mother continued. "I ran into a woman I knew from back then at the store, and she said to me, ‘Will there be a section at the memorial where all of the students he slept with can sit?'"</p> <p>"I don't think I'll go," I said.</p> <p>A documentary about William Castle came on as a follow-up to The Tingler. I was keen to watch it. My mother went upstairs to make some money by taking calls from people wanting psychic consultations. That all happened online now – psychics like my mother advertised their services on one forum or another, posting their personal sales pitches, and then set up call times with their querants. Among her areas of expertise: the power to help people communicate with intimates who had crossed over, who had died. She enjoyed ongoing professional psychic relationships with some clients, while others sought her ought for a single reading. She told me, before going upstairs to work, that she was annoyed because a woman who she'd told to end her relationship had left her a negative review online. "I didn't tell her what she wanted to hear," my mother said, drifting out of the room.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>Evan James has written for <em>Oxford American, Travel + Leisure, Catapult, The New York Times, The New York Observer</em> and many other. His essay "Lovers' Theme" was selected by Eula Biss as the winner of the 2016 Iowa Review Award in Nonfiction. He earned an MFA in Fiction at the Iowa Writers Workshop, and has received fellowships from Yaddo and the Carson McCullers Center. His first novel, <em>Cheer Up, Mr. Widdicombe</em>, will be published in the United States, in 2019.</strong></p> <p> </p> <p><br style="color: #000000; font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; letter-spacing: normal; text-align: start; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; word-spacing: 0px; text-decoration: none;" /></p> <p> </p> <p><strong><a href="https://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><img style="margin: 5px; float: left;" title="Elizabeth Kostova Foundation" src="/images/stories/V137/EK_Logo.jpg" alt="Elizabeth Kostova Foundation" width="30%" /></a>THE <a href="https://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</span></a> and VAGABOND, Bulgaria's English Monthly, cooperate in order to enrich the English language with translations of contemporary Bulgarian writers and original works of English-language writers emerging from the EKF’s international programs. Every year we give you the chance to read the work of a dozen young and sometimes not-so-young Bulgarian and English-language writers that the EKF considers original, refreshing and valuable. Some of the Bulgarian authors have been translated into English for the first time. Enjoy our fiction and creative non-fiction pages.</strong></p></div> <a href="/index.php/archive/issue-142" hreflang="en">Issue 142</a> <a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/index.php/culture/creative-non-fiction" hreflang="en">CREATIVE NON-FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=626&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="ZWNTCZu4BWwAr86DV0-vh4NL0Bf1DyrN17y8OksBN6Q"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 30 Jul 2018 09:28:15 +0000 DimanaT 626 at http://vagabond.bg http://vagabond.bg/index.php/ive-been-wrong-excerpt-memoir-626#comments