This current issue presents texts by the 2011 Sozopol Fiction Seminars fellow Petja Heinrich
Issue 65, February 2012
by Petja Heinrich; translated from the Bulgarian by Angela Rodel, 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 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
are only too happy to get them
published in a quality magazine.
Enjoy our ﬁction pages.
THE LADY IN PINK
Today the cafeteria offered its usual lunch menu – something with lots of meat. Big and greasy. Mashed potatoes slapped on a plate with no love for the food whatsoever. I took one look and quickly got out of there. I bought a sandwich from the bakery I don't like going into, because the clerk is very fast and demanding. Stern and serious. I always worry about taking too long to decide and agitating her all the more. I quickly point at a sandwich with cheese and a leaf of lettuce. Even before I can get my money out, she's already drumming her fingers on the counter impatiently, as if I'm taking ages. Then I set off to stroll through the streets. I decide to check whether there's a bench behind the church where a person could nibble on his sandwich in peace. It is a sandwich, after all.
I look inside the bag and the butter seems to be moving. Come on now, I know I'm just seeing things. I close the bag, squeezing the top tightly so that the greasy little beast can't jump out. I reach the church and duck down one of the paths to the left of it. I reach a metal gate covered with signs. It's not a playground. It's not open to the public. It's not for this. It's not for that. With the exception of the entrance to something or other and to the kindergarten. Well, I can pass as an exception, too, I tell myself. And inside – a quiet, magical garden. With narrow walkways, low trees, benches. My first thought is that it looks a bit like a cemetery.
An elderly woman in a pink suit is sitting on one of the benches. She looks sad. Quiet. Tired. I take a side path so as not to disturb her and sit on a distant bench. I open the bag with my living sandwich, close my eyes and take a bite. I'm still gonna eat it, so what? The woman soon gets up and slowly walks off, leaving me alone.
The whole garden is covered in white bird feathers. Fresh ones. The poor little things are shaking off their winter down like crazy right now. And so I gather up a few feathers here and there along the path, I look at all of that richness and think that it's so much, so not-mine, that it's better not to touch it. I think to myself that if feathers were gold, I would be a millionaire after my lunch break. If I were greedy enough to gather them up. Not that I'm poor in the feathers department. It's just that so many at once suddenly makes my whole collecting of them worthless. So I decide not to touch them.
On the way back, when I reached my office building I see a woman waving at me from a window. I wave back. She's happy and smiling a toothy smile. She opens the window and calls out: "You were in the park."
"No, sorry, you must be thinking of someone else," I reply.
"No, no, I saw you!" the woman insisted. And it dawned on me that she called the little garden with its feather-covered walkways a "park."
"Ohhh, you're the woman in the pink suit."
"Yes," she replied, smiling cheerfully. "I've never gone to that park, I don't know why I thought of it today."
We work together, we often talk on the phone, but outside the office we are so different that she didn't recognise me, nor I her.
"Yes, I was in the park," I say and toss the bag from my sandwich into the rubbish bin in front of the door and go in.
A week later the woman in the pink suit retires and the park is mine alone, but I don't go there anymore.
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