This issue presents texts by the 2010-2011 Sozopol Fiction Seminars fellows ivan Dimitrov and Ivan Landzhev
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 fiction pages.
Ivan Dimitrov's short stories have been nominated for the debut book competition of Ars Publishing House, and his play Separation at First Sight was one of five nominees at the Slavka Slavova Chamber Play Competition of Theatre 199 in the spring of 2010. He is the author of Local Foreigners, a book of short stories, the novel Life as a Missing Spoon and a book of poetry Poet on Portrait. He was a finalist at the Sofia Poetics Festival contest in two consecutive years (2010 and 2011). In 2010 he was a Fellow at the Sozopol Fiction Seminar in Bulgaria. In 2011 his play The Eyes of Others won the New Drama contest in Shumen and will be staged in 2012. The same work was also featured at the Lark Play Center's prestigious hotINK festival in New York City in March 2012. Dimitrov graduated in Bulgarian Studies from Sofia University. He lives and works in Sofia.
N. is a writer and is just finishing his first detective novel. Until now, he has always written books that cannot be fitted into a particular genre and thus fall into the category of "literary fiction." This time is no exception. The book is a whodunit, but is more than your usual crime novel: at once funny and serious, wordy and laconic. The main character, as is typical of N., is a writer who is suffering from writer's block while trying to finish his first detective novel and who turns out to be mixed up in a cop's murder, which he perhaps committed, perhaps not. In any case, we don't find out until the final sentence, where N. casually drops the solution to the mystery.
N. is sure that he will finally make a big splash. He is not an unknown writer, yet nor is he famous. His books have always sold well, but have never provoked a true "boom" in the bookstores. Until now he has always been a good writer who is just missing that little something that would get him into the club of "great writers," but this time he is sure that he has crossed that line and will take up his rightful place among the living classics.
Anticipating impending fame, N. is completing his fifteenth edit of the novel with the working title The Literary Psychopath, which he will soon change, so as not to give away the denouement. He has already prepared a list of twenty or so titles and the only thing he needs to do now is choose one of them. Before that, however, he wants to finish with the edits, to reach that cherished moment when the manuscript is ready to be transformed into a book. Only then, N. thinks to himself, will I be able to give my novel a fitting title.
N. is trying not to hurry, but he is working more than usual. He tries to slow his pace, he has taken things too fast in the past and would like to avoid rushing. Despite everything, the editing takes him only half as much time as usual. For this reason he feels obliged to continue editing. Instead of the usual ten times, he continues on for an eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth round…
The fifteenth edit will be the last, he tells himself, going over the novel yet again. Shortly before he reaches the end, a detail he hadn't noticed until now jumps out at him. The character of the policeman, exceptionally important for the action, is not sufficiently realistic.
N. reads the novel again from beginning to end. Then he rereads it once more and once more after that. Without a doubt, the character of the cop is wrong. It's not bad. N. would even call him a strong character, but definitely wrong in the little details, which, in N.'s opinion, are the most important element in creating a character. They and nothing else are precisely what create the illusion that the character is alive.
N. gradually reaches the conclusion that the character of the policeman is what will trip up the novel, which will allow prizes to elude his grasp, which will cause the door to the club of "great writers" to again be slammed in his face. He cannot afford this and over the course of two weeks he racks his brains, trying to improve the character of the cop. He sits down to edit it dozens of times and every draft is worse than the original version. N. is driven to a state of total despair, to the desire to rip to shreds the printed version upon which he has made his edits in blue pen, and to the repeated mental image of him smashing his laptop against the wall.
These thoughts disappear from his head when he discovers the solution to his problem. It is so simple! How could he not have thought of it until now! Instead of racking his brains, he could have already edited the character of the cop, if only he had thought of it sooner. The only thing he has to do is a little field research.
N. calls up a few friends looking for help and soon figures out who to turn to for assistance. Thanks to friendly favours and the sympathy of certain people, he will be able to shadow a local policeman for an evening.
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