The readers of Vagabond, Bulgaria's English Magazine, know what it is. That's why I will now try to tell what it isn't.
Vagabondis not a propaganda magazine – despite some local expectations, based on the parochial fear of "not showing our dirty linen to outsiders," that it should be. There is nothing parochial in Vagabond. Starting with its challenging name, this magazine has the self-confidence to show what life in Bulgaria is like through its problems. Instead of pouring out platitudes, it investigates, criticises and is daringly ironic. This is a way of getting to like present-day Bulgaria once you have come to know it from the backside of the compliments and the self-conceit. The opposite would have been to like it without understanding it, which is like eating a sweet without first unpacking it.
Vagabondis not a "project" magazine in the sense it has never been affiliated to any local government agency or private corporation. The magazine continues to fight an uphill battle for survival and has never relied on Bulgarian-style walkovers as it lives on its ability to attract readers and keep them interested in what it has to say next.
I think that after 100 issues we have all the good reasons to refer to aVagabond Circle, but it is not political, economic or corporate, like other such "circles" the Bulgarian public keeps talking about. It is more of an elite virtual club, in the English fashion, where the members are a varied lot of diplomats, entrepreneurs, experts and media types but where students, tourists, visitors, drifters and retired couples who spend most of their time digging their little Bulgarian yards are also welcome.
Last but not least,Vagabond is not a foreign media. Though it is in a foreign language – or perhaps because of that – it belongs to the local media environment which, sadly, has been plummeting in terms of press freedoms year after year, owing to its many dependencies.Vagabond offers an alternative, its own model of quality journalism that can speak out where the mainstream Bulgarian-language media keep still.
This reminds me of Tsvetan Todorov, the French philosopher of Bulgarian origin, who insists that any type of culture, by necessity, is being produced in some kind of internal, external or professional exile. In this sense,Vagabond continues in the great tradition of the BBC World Service, Radio Free Europe, the Deutsche Welle and Radio France Internationale, all of which used to have a resounding media presence in this country but gradually withdrew, leaving many of the intelligent members of the public feeling nostalgic for quality journalism.
I want to believe that in its next 100 issuesVagabond will preserve the sound of the splash it has already made in the local pond.