by Paulina Petrova; translated from the Bulgarian by Angela Rodel
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 Vagabond are
only too happy to get them published in a quality magazine. Enjoy our
This current issue presents texts by the 2011 Sozopol Fiction Seminars fellows: Paulina Petrova and Lee Romer Kaplan.
Paulina Petrova was born in Sofia. She is an alumnus of the Sofia School of Mathematics. She holds two degrees, in Economic Computer Science and in International Relations, both from the University
of National and World Economy. She is currently working on her first two novels.
Paulina has always wanted to write a book but her desire remained in the realm of those dreams which
one tends to classify as "impossible." Less than two years ago it occurred to her that she could let her fantasy run, that she could sit in front of the white sheet of paper and pluck up the courage to put her fantasy down and have it turned into a novel.
David and his father lived alone in a small wooden house in the middle of the woods, which David had decided must be at the very edge of the world. Their home was tucked so far into the mountains that as of yet, after seventeen whole years of life and hundreds of dogged expeditions, the boy had not managed to reach any other inhabited place, nor had he seen another person besides his father.
When he was younger, his father had forbidden him from straying too far from the house, and when he went off "off to work," he refused to take the boy with him. David, however, like most children, would not take "no" for an answer. He tried everything he could think of to get his father to change his mind. But Gregory was unshakable.
David had a secret. He had noticed that his father always disappeared from one and the same place in a thick cloud of smoke. The child's natural curiosity urged him to try to follow his father. He hoped he would be quick and careful enough to succeed. Yet every time he jumped out from behind the tree he had been hiding behind and ran after his father, instead of figuring out where he had gone or discovering some trace of him, David found himself on a brand-new path that was completely unknown to him.
In the beginning he thought that by setting out down the path he would discover where his father had gone and boldly set off on the journey, yet not a single one of these journeys led him to the place he was hoping to go. For years the boy could not explain how every single one of the paths inevitably led him back home only moments before his father himself returned. Every time he managed to get home just in the nick of time (and as we said, this happened every time), he thanked the heavens for his wild luck, which helped him outsmart his father and keep his little secret.
But (as often is the case with children) David only thought he had a secret. Actually, his father (like most parents) had known what his son was up to from the very beginning and had taken precautions to protect David from the possible consequences.
What had Gregory done?
Well, very simply David's father was the one who'd made the paths. All of those paths David wandered along had been created by Gregory and they were enchanted. It was no accident and certainly not thanks to the heavens (nor to wild luck) that all paths inevitably led back home, and right on time, at that. The paths were created for David and David alone, and no other human being (besides his father) could possibly set off down them. So when he was away, Gregory could rest assured that his son was safe.
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