Wed, 11/28/2018 - 11:27

Briton Christopher Buxton interprets, publishes 20th century poets

Christopher Buxton fell in love with Bulgarian literature soon after he started to learn the language, in the late 1970s

Like any other country with a small language, Bulgaria has some fine writers and poets who remain virtually unknown to the world because their work has never been properly translated. (It is an entirely different issue why Bulgaria, unlike other countries with small languages, has done little if anything to sponsor the translation of its authors). People like Pencho Slaveykov, Geo Milev, Nikola Vaptsarov, Elin Pelin and Dimitar Dimov – all fine poets and writers with dramatic life stories, could have become international household names had they written in German, French or Spanish. Instead, they remain on the unknown periphery of European literature solely on the merit of the language they used.

Christopher Buxton, a retired English teacher and author of novels such as Far From the Danube, Prudence and the Red Baron, The Devil's Notebook and Surge, has taken upon himself to at least partially rectify this historical injustice. In 2018 his small pushing house in the UK, Oleander Press, published two collections of poems selected and translated by him.

Christopher Buxton

One is entitled To Return to Your Father's House and presents a bunch of poems by Dimcho Debelyanov (1887-1916). These include "Smiling Waves," "The Town Sleeps," "Death" and "Tragedy" – all of them taught in Bulgarian schools and cherished by Bulgarians for several generations. Buxton compares Debelyanov, who was shot dead by a British sniper during the Great War, to English war-time poets such as Wilfred Owen and Isaac Rosenberg – only that he fought on the other side of the conflict.

Christopher Buxton translation Yavorov

The story of Peyo Yavorov, the author of Confidentially – the second book of Christopher Buxton's translations, was very different. Yavorov (1878-1914), a fervent champion for the independence of Macedonia and Armenia, was this country's foremost romantic poet. His personal life was imbued with tragedy. His first great love died of consumption, and then he had a disastrous and scandalous marriage with Lora Karavelova who shot herself. He attempted suicide which only left him partially blind. When he finally managed to kill himself he was a deeply unhappy man who lived amidst rumours that he had in fact murdered Lora. This unhappiness rarely shows in his work, however. He can be lively and optimistic, and his poems "It's Not Your Fault," "Testament" and "Two Souls" evoke French symbolism.

Yavorov monument, Pomorie

Monument of Peyo Yavorov in Pomorie, where the poet used to work as a post office clerk

Christopher Buxton, who lives part time in Colchester and part time in Burgas, has done a good job translating Debelyanov's and Yavorov's sometimes overwhelmingly complex verse. Their poems read well in English and emit at least some of the original atmosphere. For his work in making known Bulgarian literature in English Christopher Buxton was awarded the Culture Ministry annual prize in 2015.

Christopher Buxton translation Debelyanov

Issue 146

Commenting on www.vagabond.bg

Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on www.vagabond.bg to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use www.vagabond.bg for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on www.vagabond.bg please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on www.vagabond.bg.


Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Discover More

1 I remember her bloody, drained, and happy, her thighs trembling from exertion, spread open to the sides. And I'm holding a piece of living flesh in my hands and trembling with fear.
"Can I get you anything else, Bear Boy?" inquired the waiter of the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall café with an ill-contained smirk.