This current issue presents texts by the 2011 Sozopol Fiction Seminars fellow
Issue 65, February 2012
by Molly Antopol (USA); photography by Anthony Georgieff
The Elizabeth Kostova Foundation 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 ﬁ rst
time. The EKF has decided to make
the selection of authors' work and
to ensure they get ﬁrst-class English
translation, and we at
are only too happy to get them
published in a quality magazine.
Enjoy our ﬁction pages.
No one wants to listen to a man lament his solitary nights – myself included. Which is why, on an early fall morning four months after Gail left, when a woman breezed into my shop with a pinstriped skirt in her arms and said, "On what day this can be ready?" I didn't write a receipt, tell her Tuesday, and move on to the next customer. Instead I said, "Your accent. Russian?"
"Ah. Then perhaps you enjoy Baryshnikov?"
"He is from Latvia," she said slowly, "but yes, doesn't everyone?" She had a wide pale face, full lips, and short blond hair dyed the color of curry.
"Unbelievable!" I said. "I rarely meet a person who enjoys the ballet." That was true: I, for example, did not enjoy the ballet.
"Svetlana Gumbar," she said, leaning over the counter and extending her hand. "But call me Sveta."
"I'm Howard Siegel." Then I blanked and blurted, "You can call me any time you like." She smiled, sort of. The lines sketching the corners of her eyes hinted she was closer to my age than to my daughter's, for which I was thankful: it was too pathetic a jump from the twentysomething girlfriend to the earring and squirrelly ponytail. I laid out her skirt, examining it for stains, and when I finally worked up the nerve, I asked her to dinner.
"What are you doing picking up women on the job?" my daughter said that evening over chicken at her place.
"What’s wrong with that?"
"There are better places to look for them. I know two women from Beit Adar who would love to meet you."
Beth was still lovely – small and freckled with eyebrows too thick for her face – but the silk kerchief covering her hair would take some getting used to. So would the mezuzahs hanging in every doorway of her new Brooklyn apartment, the shelf of Hebrew prayer books I doubted she could even read. This was, to say the least, a recent development. And what timing. Right when I was trying to learn how to live alone after twenty-six years of marriage, Beth had left for Jerusalem. And, worse, came back born again – and with a fiancé, Ya’akov, who happened to be a fool.
"Listen," I said, "I've got a feeling about Sveta. You trust my taste in women, don't you, Beth?"
"But why rule out other prospects?" the fool said. He did that, answered for her.
"I'm the one who has to spend an evening with these women, making small talk."
"Still," he said, "give them a chance." Ya'akov was tall and wiry, with agitated little hands and a kippah that slid around his slick brown hair, like even it didn't know what it was doing on his head. He was from Long Island. He had once been Jake "The Snake," pledgemaster of his fraternity. At the wedding his brothers from Sigma Phi had looked as flummoxed as his parents, as if everyone were waiting for Jake to confess that his religious awakening was just an elaborate prank. "All my wife's trying to say," Ya'akov continued, "is that we know plenty of nice women."
"Maybe you could let my daughter speak for herself, Jake."
"But I agree with him," Beth said. "Why not let us fix you up?"
"I just want to meet someone the normal way," I said. "Shopping for romance after services just doesn't sound like love."
"What do you think love should be, then?" Beth asked.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers