Issue 86

VAGABOND MEDIA 'THREATENS' NATIONAL SECURITY

Normally, I would not have put pen to paper to critique critics of our work. This is reserved for other critics. Critics as such have the right to agree or disagree. They have the right to use or not use arguments to elate or denounce a collective work in the form of a book. They have to abide to a set of generally accepted principles in doing that – or they may choose to ignore it. They have the right to see the point – or miss it partially or in its entirety.

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MEGAPHONE

Here it's the third week of the garbage strike and Athens has begun to smell. Bright-colored trash bags fill the curbs and alleyways, and we have learned to step over the rubbish and avoid the blocks that have become unnavigable. We know which stretches are particularly foul – a stretch along Mavili Square, or the entire top end of Monastiraki. Odos Athinas is a sea of trash, and Omonia is ghastly but we don't go there anyway. May has gone from unseasonably cool to raging hot, and the garbage is melting. In front of the museum it's like yet another installation project.

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DREAMS, An excerpt

People still believe in the Devil and hope to see him in the whites of the convulsing epileptic's eyes. This time, though, something is not right. I don't know what, I just feel it. I get up. A plump man wearing glasses and a plaid jacket is helping me.

"Thanks," I say, "I'll be fine… It's just a regular seizure."

"No comprende," the man smiles.

A punk kid stands up and silently points at the plastic seat. His baby face is unusually kind.

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RIBNOVO WEDDINGS

Muddy streets, soulless buildings and stunning Rhodope landscapes: at first glance, Ribnovo is like every other Pomak village in the western part of the mountains. However, Ribnovo is like no other village in the Rhodope, or indeed in Bulgaria. What gives the village vitality and a sense of colour, even in the dullest months of the year, are its people.

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AROUND BULGARIA IN 5 SACRES SITES

You don't need to be a believer to experience something special at some places and some moments. A sense of spirituality can enfold you anywhere, anytime. Being a small but very varied country, Bulgaria has plenty of locations conducive to this. It is a country of many religions, both old and new, long dead or still living, and it is yours to explore with eyes and soul open once you get tired of the beaten tourist track.

RILA MONASTERY

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MARIE VRINAT-NIKOLOV

Mere coincidence (or was it Fate?) acquainted Frenchwoman Marie Vrinat-Nikolov with Bulgaria, and she fell in love with it at the age of 13. The love affair has been going on since then in spite of a number of personal and "ideological" challenges. French by birth, she also has Bulgarian citizenship which she acquired on her own volition and not without a fair amount of trouble. Marie Vrinat-Nikolov now lives between France and Bulgaria, between French and Bulgarian, but in the world of Bulgarian literature.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF TOLERANCE

These have been perpetrated by different state regimes, leaders, nations and organisations. They have been motivated by different circumstances, but it is obvious that they were directed against us as a people.

At various times we have been targeted as scapegoats, in order to divert the attention from the errors and crisis situations produced by different regimes; or we were singled out because of envy, as often we were people with special skills, abilities and influence. But most often we were attacked simply because of the fact that we were Jewish. 


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WHAT IS CHANUKAH?

For more than two millennia the Jewish people have celebrated the holiday of Chanukah, a festival that lasts eight days. This is time for joy and family reunion during which we express our gratitude to God for the miracles the ancient Jews experienced during their revolt against the Hellenic invaders in the 2nd Century BCE. Lead by Antiochus Epiphanes, the Hellenes conquered Jerusalem and desecrated the Holy Temple.

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MORE TIME OFF IN 2014

One of the more exotic "traditions" in Bulgaria is the propensity of governments during the past 20 years to "combine" bank holidays and then declare existing holidays, typically Saturdays, working days. The official explanation is that such adjustments to the working calendar of Bulgarians will enable them to rest more "comprehensively."

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THE BIRTH OF BULGARIAN FASCISM

Apart from the "proverbial" labori­ousness of its citizens and their cleanliness, one of the cliches most often used to describe this Balkan "Land of Roses" is its tolerance. Bulgaria saved its Jews from planned deportation during the Second World War is the historical fact often quoted to support the tolerance cliche.

Like all cliches, however, the "Bulgarian tolerance" may have stemmed from some distant past no one can remember. Anyone chancing to venture into the streets of Sofia in 2013 will see a very different picture.

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AM I A MUTRA?

Obviously, to produce an informed ruling, the courts will have to consider whether being called a mutra is offensive. To do that they will need the help of linguists to elucidate whether the word mutra is good or bad. Linguists will have to turn to sociologists who will explain public sentiments, possibly based on polls, to assess prevailing attitudes to what a mutra in Bulgaria is. During the years, this journal has tried repeatedly to explain the term, but has miserably failed to even find a proper translation for it.

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WE'VE GOT MAIL

The source used by myself in the Encyclopaedia of Islam to which I am a contributor is a short remark by Rupert Furneaux in his The Siege of Plevna, Anthony Blond publishers, London,1958. On p 198 you can read that Pleven cost the Russians 30,000 deaths to take it, the Turks 10,000 deaths to defend it... On p216: "In all, some 50,000 Turks died in Russian captivity. Out of 43,000 men who set out (as prisoners on the way to Russia), only 15,000 reached Russia, and only 12,000 returned to their homes after the war."

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