Elizabeth Kostova Foundation

THE CAULDRON

Most of the houses in the village were uninhabitable. The residents of the rest of them were old people and Gypsies. On the whole, peace and love didn't exactly reign, but there was tolerance and an absence of extensive problems. The elderly Bulgarians were situated in the upper mahala, and their dark-skinned younger neighbors – in the lower one. The store on the village square was in the middle of the village and served as a linguistic point of contact.

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OXHEART

In the empty apartment, he took a shower and looked for a piece of paper and a pen. He found an orange BIC, yellowed graph paper and sat down to write. He hadn't written for years.

Clinical Picture of Nostalgia:

Onset period: Since the beginning of eternity.

Vulnerable groups: Homo Sapiens, of various ages and gender.

Present focus: recently prefers Eastern Europe.

Anamnesis vitae:

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BETWEEN THE FLOORS

I used to live on the last floor, but now I reside on the landing between the last and the next-to-last floor. I don't remember how long it's been. It must be a while, though, since people seem really used to me by now and pretend I don't even exist. For my part, I just sit here, look out the window, and keep mum.

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A SUBLIME PORT

I start forgetting things. Sometimes I remember that I'm forgetting but sometimes I don't so I keep a list. I note the consequences because I think that may provide an incentive for me to remember in the future.

   Forgot: to wear sash.

   Consequence: beaten on soles of feet and pay docked for three days as couldn't work.

   Forgot: to salute the Valide Sultan when she returned to the palace after an excursion to the Sweet Waters of Asia.

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HEARSE, TWO RHINOCEROS, An excerpt from a novel

I was there early, so I went up to the second floor restroom. I seized the moment of seclusion, and scraped my own cave painting on the wall. It depicted a group of hunters who had surrounded a rhinoceros. The hunters were wearing suits and ties; it was we, the employees, and the rhino was the Agency. Satisfied with this epistle, I went downstairs.

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LEAVING TOYOHARAS

KARIYA'S PHONE STOPS WORKING SOMEWHERE IN THE air above Hokkaido. He isn't sure what happened; at the beginning of the flight, he switched it – dutifully – to airplane mode when the captain reminded the passengers to do so, but as soon as he lands in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, his phone has stopped working entirely. He presses the power button, the home button, every combination of buttons he can think of, but in the end, even after being plugged into a charger for several hours, his phone is decidedly and irreversibly dead.

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CHILDREN OF IMMIGRANTS

Writers often find their true material through the subconscious mind. The obsession that has guided me to my truest writing always emerged more intuitively than consciously. A writer develops, over time, this ability to tap into a reservoir of knowledge, imagination, memory, and feeling that exists both at the individual level and the collective. You go into a dark, place full of buried treasure, where anything is possible, and begin your quest for your true story. You are fuelled, all along, by the particular energy of your subject.

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IT STILL BENDS ON THE ELBOW*

It may seem like nothing to you but you have to understand there was this life I was heading for like for a heavy-ass truck on the highway – fast, loose – and it was like all of a sudden I was getting a preview of it.

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40 DAYS, An excerpt from a novel

"Todor, you'll be sorry one day," my mother would say.

"Failure depends on you," my father would repeat.

"Mr. Emanuilov, you've failed the test," my high school math teacher would say haughtily.

"Tosho, you are totally the great evil," Kosey, one of my few friends, would say – the one who would go with me to drink drugstore vodka in homemade cherry compote with the metalheads.

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BLIND ORACLE OF MECTAN*, a short story

He is the blind oracle at Unchained Melody Massage Parlor.

He specializes in foot rubs. He can stimulate all kinds of glands with pulls and pricks of the tendon and phalanges.

He can, for example, make a person grow taller by pushing on the well of the big toe, which is the pituitary gland reflex point. Everyone knows this.

He can also tell people's fortunes.

He made his first prophecy on April 26, 1521.

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THE OLD MAN AND THE MOUNTAIN, A short story

It's difficult to talk about this, it's difficult but someone should do it, the old man wanted only to confess his sins before his death, there was no priest in the village, I had lost my way in the Blue mountain, I heard some voices and went downhill through some thorns, I met some old people and asked them where I was, they were crying like infants, especially an old woman, she turned out to be the old man's wife, she explained everything to me, she didn't tell me where I was, only told me come to confess him, poor man, he shouldn't take his sins to the grave, I agreed, instead of arguing

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SHADOW MAKERS, An excerpt from a novel

When she looks up, Finn sees that Murphy is on his porch, feeding the magpie family again. Finn frowns. She hadn't heard the birds make a sound. She wonders if Murphy has been watching her, and feels embarrassed, now, about the things she's done in chalk. But when Murphy sees her watching he smiles as if seeing her for the first time today. He beckons her over, and Finn leaves her chalk pieces and walks across slowly, side-on to the porch so as not to frighten away the magpies he's feeding.

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SOFIA, An excerpt from a novel

Of course, with Andrej there was no question of it being anything more serious than sex. We weren't even girlfriend and boyfriend. He never once introduced me as his girlfriend. I was a girl. Not his girl. When we would go out with other people, they were usually foreigners, current or potential clients, very rarely his friends.

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FROM PETERSBURG WITH LOVE, AN EXCERPT FROM A TRAVELOGUE

Russia's former imperial capital captivates visitors with its history,

its culture, and the splendid riches of its palaces

The dark river flows and does not sleep,

it whispers quietly, tells tales to keep,

about tsars, tsaritsas, and their palaces,

about their past of glory and their countless odysseys.

The river knows, it's seen it all, through this enormous town it's always flown,

under many bridges it now runs, so that its loyal night guards they become.

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WHEN WE WERE VIKINGS, An excerpt from a travel essay

The sun doesn't set in the summer there so we played cards for hours in the ceaseless twilight; during the daytime, we hiked an old Viking trail. We carried our backpacks through the wilderness and set up camp each night by rivers and waterfalls. We found a fragment of whale bone on the seashore, curved and large as a giant's tooth. It was porous, but as heavy as the stones surrounding it.

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IN THE SHADOW OF THE DISEASE, An excerpt from a memoir

The day I was admitted to the hospital, I just lay there and stared straight ahead—a piece of paper had been stuck to the closet, and the closet was blocking half of the window. Out its other half, I could see some thick black branches. The piece of paper said, "Inventory of Items in Room 7." I had the surgery the next day. I put on my regular pants because my cell phone, which I'd put on silent, could fit into pocket. As if I'd be able to inform anyone what was happening to me while I was under general anaesthesia… They did a biopsy and the express results came back in about 20 minutes.

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I'VE BEEN WRONG BEFORE, An excerpt from a memoir

I went out for a run one lightly rainy morning – on Halloween, actually. Movement kept at bay the dreadful sensation that the island hungered to swallow me up, annihilate my spirit. And so I laced up, pulled the hood of an old sweatshirt over my head, and ran along the road that served the beach house. Relief came only when the road fed into a park, and the park into trails that twisted through the woods. My sneakers splashed mud up onto my shins and calves.

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WAITING FOR THE GOATS: NEW MEMORY FROM OLD BULGARIA, An excerpt from a memoir

My gaze passes onto the other hill, Kalakoch, the kale and its mysterious banks and ditches. The place could have been a Thracian hillfort and some say it was later used as a refuge when the Goths and the Huns and the Avar tribes streamed across the Danube to raid the Byzantine Empire. After that it was a place of quarry for building stone and a tryst for young lovers. Out with the sheep they would pick around the stones and pots and tell stories.

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