Zachary Karabashliev

Zachary Karabashliev (born 14 April 1968, Varna, Bulgaria) is a contemporary Bulgarian writer and a playwright. He has graduated in Bulgarian philology from the University of Shumen, Bulgaria. Since 1997, he has been living with his family in San Diego, CA, U.S

His debut novel, 18% Gray (18% Сиво, Ciela Publishers, 2008), published in Bulgaria in his native language is a bestselling title with 7 editions. It won the prestigious Bulgarian Novel of the Year Award given by Edward Vick Foundation, and was a finalist for the renowned literary biennial Elias Canetti Award. It was chosen by anonymous vote to be among the 100 most loved books by Bulgarians in the BBC campaign The Big Read. His other book, A Brief History of the Airplane won the Book of the Year 2009 Award of Helikon. His play Sunday Evening won the most respected theatre award in Bulgaria – ASKEER 2009 and has a successful run in Sofia. His play Recoil is being also awarded as Best New Bulgarian Play, and is being produced now.
Zachary Karabashliev also writes short stories, essays and articles for lifestyle magazines, literary journals and newspapers.


18% Gray

A Brief History of The Airplane

Posted in Young Writers | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Julia Kristeva

Julia Kristeva (born 24 June 1941) is a BulgarianFrench philosopherliterary criticpsychoanalystsociologistfeminist, and, most recently, novelist, who has lived in France since the mid-1960s. She is now a Professor at the University Paris Diderot. Kristeva became influential in international critical analysis, cultural theory and feminismafter publishing her first book Semeiotikè in 1969. Her sizable body of work includes books and essays which address intertextuality, the semiotic, and abjection, in the fields of linguistics, literary theory and criticism, psychoanalysis, biography and autobiography, political and cultural analysis, art and art history. Together with Roland BarthesTodorovGoldmannGérard Genette,Lévi-StraussLacanGreimas, and Althusser, she stands as one of the foremost structuralists, in that time when structuralism took a major place in humanities. Her works also have an important place in post-structuralist thought.

She is also the founder and head of the Simone de Beauvoir Prize committee.

Born in SlivenBulgaria, Kristeva is the daughter of a church accountant. Kristeva and her sister were enrolled in a Francophone school run by Dominican nuns. Kristeva became acquainted with the work of Mikhail Bakhtin at this time in Bulgaria. Kristeva went on to study at the University of Sofia, and while a postgraduate there obtained a research fellowship that enabled her to move toFrance in December 1965, when she was 24.[2] She continued her education at several French universities.


After joining the ‘Tel Quel group’ founded by Philippe Sollers, Kristeva focused on the politics of language and became an active member of the group. She trained in psychoanalysis, and earned her degree in 1979. In some ways, her work can be seen as trying to adapt apsychoanalytic approach to the poststructuralist criticism. For example, her view of the subject, and its construction, shares similarities withSigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan. However, Kristeva rejects any understanding of the subject in a structuralist sense; instead, she favors a subject always “in process” or “in crisis.” In this way, she contributes to the poststructuralist critique of essentialized structures, whilst preserving the teachings of psychoanalysis. She travelled to China in the 1970s and later wrote About Chinese Women (1977).

The semiotic

One of Kristeva’s most important propositions is the semiotic, as distinct from the discipline of semiotics founded by Saussure. As explained in The History of Women in Philosophy by Augustine Perumalil, Kristeva’s “semiotic is closely related to the infantile pre-Oedipal referred to in the works of Freud, Otto RankMelanie Klein, British Object Relation psychoanalysis, and the Lacanian (pre-mirror stage). It is an emotional field, tied to the instincts, which dwells in the fissures and prosody of language rather than in the denotative meanings of words. In this sense, the semiotic opposes the symbolic, which correlates words with meaning in a stricter, mathematical sense. She is also noted for her work on the concepts of “abjection” (a notion that relates to a primary psychological force of rejection, directed toward the mother-figure), and intertextuality.”

Anthropology and psychology

Kristeva argues that anthropology and psychology, or the connection between the social and the subject, do not represent each other, but rather follow the same logic: the survival of the group and the subject. Furthermore, in her analysis of Oedipus, she claims that the speaking subject cannot exist on his/her own, but that he/she “stands on the fragile threshold as if stranded on account of an impossible demarcation” (Powers of Horror, p. 85).

In her comparison between the two disciplines, Kristeva claims that the way in which an individual excludes the abject mother as a means of forming an identity, is the same way in which societies are constructed. On a broader scale, cultures exclude the maternal and the feminine, and by this come into being.


Kristeva was regarded as a key proponent of French feminism together with Simone de BeauvoirHélène Cixous, and Luce Irigaray.[9][10]Kristeva had a remarkable influence on feminism and feminist literary studies[11][12] in the US and the UK, as well as on readings into contemporary art[13][14] although her relation to feminist circles and movements in France was quite controversial. Kristeva made a famous disambiguation of three types of feminism in “Women’s Time” in New Maladies of the Soul (1993); while rejecting the first two types, including that of Simone de Beauvoir, her stands are sometimes considered to reject feminism altogether. Kristeva proposed the idea of multiple sexual identities against the joined code of “unified feminine language”.

Denunciation of identity politics

Though she is often seen as one of the architects of postmodern feminism which partly gave rise to what is known to be political correctness,multiculturalism, and identity politics, Kristeva said her writings had been misunderstood by American feminist academics. She believes that it is harmful to posit collective identity above individual identity, and this political assertion of sexual, ethnic, and religious identities is “totalitarian“.


In the past decade, Kristeva has written a number of novels that resemble detective stories. While the books maintain narrative suspense and develop a stylized surface, her readers also encounter ideas intrinsic to her theoretical projects. Her characters reveal themselves mainly through psychological devices, making her type of fiction mostly resemble the later work of Dostoevsky. Her fictional oeuvre, which includesThe Old Man and the WolvesMurder in Byzantium, and Possessions, while often allegorical, also approaches the autobiographical in some passages, especially with one of the protagonists of Possessions, Stephanie Delacour—a French journalist—who can be seen as Kristeva’s alter ego. Murder in Byzantium deals with themes from orthodox Christianity and politics and has been described by Kristeva as “a kind of anti-Da Vinci Code.”


For her “innovative explorations of questions on the intersection of language, culture and literature”, Kristeva was awarded the Holberg International Memorial Prize in 2004. She won the 2006 Hannah Arendt Award for Political Thought.


Roman Jacobson said that “Both readers and listeners, whether agreeing or in stubborn disagreement with Julia Kristeva, feel indeed attracted to her contagious voice and to her genuine gift of questioning generally adopted ‘axioms,’ and her contrary gift of releasing various ‘damned questions’ from their traditional question marks.”

Roland Barthes comments that “Julia Kristeva changes the place of things: she always destroys the last prejudice, the one you thought you could be reassured by, could be take pride in; what she displaces is the already-said, the déja-dit, i.e., the instance of the signified, i.e., stupidity; what she subverts is authority -the authority of monologic science, of filiation.”

But Ian Almond criticizes Kristeva’s ethnocentrism. He cites Gayatri Spivak‘s conclusion that Kristeva’s book About Chinese Women“belongs to that very eighteenth century [that] Kristeva scorns” after pinpointing “the brief, expansive, often completely ungrounded way in which she writes about two thousand years of a culture she is unfamiliar with”.Ian Almond notes the absence of sophistication in Kristeva’s remarks concerning the Muslim world and the dismissive terminology she uses to describe its culture and believers. He criticizes Kristeva’s opposition which juxtaposes “Islamic societies” against “democracies where life is still fairly pleasant” by pointing out that Kristeva displays no awareness of the complex and nuanced debate ongoing among women theorists in the Muslim world, and that she does not refer to anything other than the Rushdie fatwa in dismissing the entire Muslim faith as “reactionary and persecutory”.

And in Intellectual Impostures, two professors of physics Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont devote a chapter to Julia Kristeva’s use of mathematics in her writings. They conclude “the main problem summarized by these texts is that she makes no effort to justify the reference of these mathematical concepts to the fields she is purporting to study – linguistics, literary criticism, political philosophy, psychoanalysis – and this in our opinion, is for the very good reason that there is none. Her sentences are more meaningful than those of Lacan, but she surpasses even him for the superficiality of her erudition.”



Julia Kristeva – Forgiveness – An Interview

Julia Kristeva: Live Theory

Desire in Language

Speaking the Unspeakable

Tales of Love

Posted in Literature after 1989 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Aleko Konstantinov

File:Aleko konstantinov.jpg

Aleko Konstantinov (1 January 1863 – 23 May 1897) was a Bulgarian writer, best known for his character Bay Ganyo, one of the most popular characters in Bulgarian fiction.

Born to an affluent trader in the Danube River town of Svishtov, he attended the Faculty of Law of the University of Odessa, graduating in 1885. He worked as a jurist in Sofia before embarking on a writing career. His first novel (in fact, a collection of relatively independent short stories), Bay Ganyo (“Uncle Ganyo”), describes the travels through Western Europe of an itinerant peddler of rose oil and rugs. Though impertinent and clumsy, the nevertheless ingenious Bay Ganyo has been seen as a mirror for a modernizing Bulgaria. At the beginning of the novel Bay Ganyo is seen mainly as trading rose oil while at the end he is portrayed as a political man. His prototype is the Karlovo tradesman Ganyo Somov.

Konstantinov, a cosmopolitan traveler, was the first Bulgarian to write about his visits to Western Europe and America. His visits to the World Exhibitions in Paris in 1889, Prague in 1891 and Chicago in 1893 provided Bulgarian readers, who had recently gained independence from nearly 500 years of Turkish Ottoman oppression, with a portrait of the developed world. To Chicago and Back (where Bay Ganyo appears once again, but only as a third plan person), his travel notes from his American trip, spurred a lasting interest in Chicago, which today boasts the largest concentration of Bulgarian immigrants in the United States. Nowadays there’s a bust of the writer in the University of Chicago‘s Regenstein Library[1]

Hе was assassinated in 1897 near Radilovo while traveling to Peshtera, most likely by mistake with the intended target being his friend (a local politician), with whom he had changed places in their coach shortly before the fatal shot. However, there exists also a version that his essays, exposing the hidden insidious intentions of the rulers of his day, led to his assassination.

Aleko Konstantinov initiated the tourist movement in Bulgaria. This is why two of Vitosha‘s hotels are named after him – “Aleko” and “Shtastlivetsa” (“The Lucky Man”, the nickname he gave to himself in one of his short stories).

Konstantinov is portrayed on the obverse of the Bulgarian 100 levs banknote, issued in 2003.


Read Aleko Konstantinov’s novel “BAI GANYO” HERE

Bai Ganyo


Aleko Konstantinov (1863-1897)
Universal moral values

He was a jurist who worked in succession as a judge, a prosecuter and a lawyer. In his 30s he published his travel notes entitled To Chicago And Back Again as well as Bay Ganyo: The Incredible Story of a Contemporary Bulgarian, two of the most popular Bulgarian books to the present day. At the same time he wrote articles satirising events in the social and political life in Bulgaria. He became famous under the pen-name, the Fortunate. Aleko Konstantinov was a popular person in the cultural circles of his time, and the initiator of the hiking movement in Bulgaria. He was the victim of a political murder.

The murder of Aleko Konstantinov was one of the most tragic incidents in Bulgarian history. Whether an accident or a political retribution, it was one of a series on meaningless deaths in the ranks of the Bulgarian intelligentsia: Dimcho DebelianovGeo MilevNikola Vaptsarov… With each of them Bulgarian spirituality and culture suffered a severe blow, and lost a unique talent.

Aleko Konstantinov’s start in literature was belated and seemingly accidental, but it made a permanent impact. He was one of the unique characters in the constellation of eminent intellectuals. In all his endeavours he was full of light and vigour, from the time he went to high school in Nikolaev and to the Southern Slavic boarding school in Todor Minkov where he played the violin and composed operettas for parties, to the years of starvation after he failed as a lawyer. Later he brought the same energy to his participation in political life and party struggles. That was when he composed his poignant satires. His lectures aroused frenzied enthusiasm and approval among students, and were provoking to the authorities and the “traitors“.

No one could have so willingly taken on the formidable task of creating Bay Ganyo, the collective image of moral degradation. No matter whether he is perceived as the image of a certain class of the whole nation, this character is equally dangerous. It would certainly be naive to think that Aleko Konstantinov’s works like Bay GanyoElections in Svishtov and Different People, Different Ideals cost him his life. It is also unlikely that he was murdered because of his devotion to the Democratic Party and Petko Karavelov. For he was devoted “not to a mortal man but to an immortal idea“. His devotion made a substantial difference, and made the satirist, politician and candidate for a seat in the National Assembly different from his contemporaries, turning him into a black sheep, i.e. into a target. He was one of the few people who, without being a theoretical idealist or a shallow dreamer, continued the National Revival tradition of considering political goals as identical with the popular wishes, of regarding politics as an integral part of the people’s life, and of regarding the politican as a representative of the popular will. He cherished the “sweet dream of establishing a most requisite and timely democratic party, very much in harmony with the mentality of our people“. He intentionally wrote “democratic party” with small letters because to him it was a spiritual movement rather than a political formation, headed by “the most honest and outspoken champions of democratic values“, among whom “there are no courtiers, sycophants, crawlers, hard-hearted, arrogant andavaricious“. Aleko Konstantinov’s moral values, which reveal much of a person’s character, were broad and varied. A lawyer turned a brilliant satirist in the vortex of political struggles and the creator of an immortal bible of Bulgarian social psychology, he was the bearer not so much of a universal talent but of a universal morality.

After his return from the university in Odessa, at the age of twenty-two, he befriended Pencho Slaveykov, younger by three years. There could hardly have existed two individuals with more opposing characters, more conflicting emotional, mental and psychological attitudes, as is evident from their spiritual development and literary career. Yet Pencho Slaveykov remained faithful to their friendship, and became the first editor and publisher of Aleko Konstantinov’s collected works after his death. It was hardly the manifestation of an emotional obligation alone. Aleko Konstantinov added a unique aspect to the collective image of the Bulgarian intelligentsia without which it would have been incomplete. While Pencho Slaveykovshouldered the mission to act as the prophet of a new moral ideal in the larger framework of his age, Aleko Konstantinov was interested in morality in everyday life.

He was unmatched in describing ordinary life and in filling it with moral values and standards of a lofty spiritual content. The serenity and charm of the bright-eyed Aleko emanated not only from his cheerful character but also from the purity of his moral concepts and from his attitude to life and to people. By adopting the pseudonym “Fortunate“, he was neither flirting with nor challenging fate. All that was left behind him, and particularly his letters, were full of sincere happiness about being different, living by his own standards and holding on to them despite life’s vicious resistance. Indeed, he was happy, for “bargaining” was to him “as alien as the Chinese language“, and he “virtually despised wealth“. He had other values in life.

Aleko Konstantinov’s ideals were far from the heights of philosophy and aesthetics. They were the ideals of an ordinary, though extremely talented person, and they helped him through everyday life. He had almost no followers, and he died a violent death. The Bulgarian intelligentsia was lucky to produce at least one talent like him.

Posted in Literature Between the Liberation and the End of WWI | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ivan Vazov

Ivan Minchov Vazov  (June 27, 1850 – September 22, 1921) was a Bulgarian poetnovelist and playwright, often referred to as “the Patriarch of Bulgarian literature”. He was born in Sopot, a town in the Rose Valley of Bulgaria (then part of the Ottoman Empire).

The exact date of Vazov’s birth is disputed. His parents, Saba and Mincho Vazov, both had a lot of influence on the young poet.

After finishing primary school in Sopot, Mincho send his son to Kalofer, appointing him assistant teacher. Having done his final exams in Kalofer, the young teacher returned to Sopot to help in his father’s grocery. The next year his father send him to Plovdiv to Naiden Gerov‘s school. There Vazov made his first steps as a poet.

He returned to Sopot and then went to Olteniţa in Romania to study trade despite his lack of interest in it. He was immersed in literature. Soon he left Olteniţa and went to Brăila where he met Hristo Botev, a Bulgarian revolutionary and poet. From Brăila he went to Galaţi to his uncle where he met Botev again.

In 1874 he joined the struggle for his country’s independence from the Ottoman Empire. He returned to Sopot in 1875 where he became a member of the local revolutionary committee. After the failure of the April Uprising of 1876, he had to flee the country, going back to Galaţi, where most of the surviving revolutionaries were exiled. There he was appointed a secretary of the committee.

Vazov was probably heavily influenced by Hristo Botev, who was the ideological leader of the Bulgarian revolutionary movement. He started writing his famous poems with Botev and some other Bulgarian emigrants in Romania. In 1876 he published his first work, Priaporetz and Gusla , followed by “Bulgaria’s Sorrows” in 1877.

Bulgaria regained its independence in 1878 as a result of the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-1878 and Vazov wrote the famous Epic of the Forgotten. He became the editor of the political reviews “Science” and “Dawn.” He was, however, forced into exile once again, this time toOdessa, because of the persecution of the russophile political faction. Returning to Bulgaria with the help of his mother Suba Vazova, he started teaching. Vazov’s next stay was in Svishtov, where he became a civil servant.

Ivan Vazov’s house, now a museum, in Sofia, Bulgaria

He moved to Sofia in 1889 where he started publishing the review Dennitsa.

Vazov’s 1893 novel Under the Yoke, which depicts the Ottoman oppression of Bulgaria, is the most famous piece of classic Bulgarian literature and has been translated into over 30 languages.

Later in his life Vazov was a prominent and widely respected figure in the social and cultural life of newly independent Bulgaria.

Other famous works

Some of the other famous works by Vazov include the novels New Country (1894), Under Our Heaven (1900), The Empress of Kazalar (1902), Songs of Macedonia (1914), It Will Not Perish(1920) and the plays Vagabonds (1894), Borislav (1909) and Ivaylo (1911).

Historical site

Vazov’s bas-relief at Vazovova Street, Bratislava

Vazov’s home in Sofia has been turned into a museum, containing a restoration of his residence with period furnishings, as well as Vazov’s taxidermically preserved dog. Although the museum is ostensibly open Tuesday through Saturday, it is in practice not always staffed, so visitors are advised to call in advance. The museum is located at the corner of Ivan Vazov Street and Georgi S. Rakovski Street in Sofia.


The Bulgarian Ivan Vazov National Theatre in Sofia is named after him. The Ivan Vazov National Library (Bulgarian: Народна библиотека “Иван Вазов”) in Plovdiv is also named after Vazov. A park near St. Sofia Church in Sofia features the city’s best-known monument to Vazov.

Vazovova Street in BratislavaSlovakia, and Vazov Point and Vazov Rock on Livingston Island in the South Shetland IslandsAntarctica are also named after Ivan Vazov.

I am Bulgarian

I am Bulgarian and strong
Bulgarian mother has born me;
beauties and goods so many
make my native land so dear.

I am Bulgarian and love
our mountains so green,
to be called Bulgarian
is the greatest joy for me.

I am a free Bulgarian,
in place of liberty I live;
everything native Bulgarian
I cherish, observe and adore.

I am Bulgarian and grow
in days so great, in time of glory;
I am son of a land so wonderful
I am son of a tribe of courage.

EACH country has its national poets. They are people who were not only good at writing but also at exposing the depths of their fellow countrymen’s souls. When celebrating their greatest moments, such as Liberation Day on March 3, Bulgarians remember the one and only person that used poetry and prose to tell the world of the Bulgarian soul, and the Bulgarian struggle to become a nation – Ivan Vazov.

After the liberation of Bulgaria in 1878 and the restoration of its state independence, the new state began developing its culture in entirely new conditions. During the first decades of freedom, Bulgarian governments were anxious to help the country out of the Orient and its backwardness, which stimulated the multifarious influences of modern European culture. The “European shift” affected all cultural spheres – education, science, literature and art. In a number of cases the cultural accomplishments outstripped even the modernisation of the state itself or its economy.

Literature has always had a leading position in the Bulgarian cultural environment. Literary life was marked by the existence of two conflicting trends containing the main ideological leanings, which sprung up after the liberation. The first one, supported by the literary circle around Vazov, tried to pave the way for Bulgarian literature along the lines of critical realism in conjunction with folklore. The second trend was represented by the circle of the Misul (Thought) magazine, co-edited by Kiril Krustev, a literary critic and Pencho Slaveikov, another Bulgarian poet. And here we meet the master.

Vazov was born in 1850 in the town of Sopot, situated in the beautiful Valley of the Roses, one of the most poetic sites the country has. Some people believe that it was one of the influences on the future great poet and novelist. The other was the struggle to overthrow Ottoman rule, which had for five centuries strangled the Bulgarian nation and limited its development.

Vazov also inherited a series of special virtues from his father, Mincho Vazov, who was a trader and a true Bulgarian, bearing the spirit of the Bulgarian people that had inhabited these lands for so many centuries. His mother also strongly influenced his development.

After finishing school in Sopot, Vazov was sent to Kalofer, another town bearing the spirit of the Bulgarian revival, and was appointed assistant teacher. After the years of exams in Kalofer, the young teacher returned to Sopot to his father’s grocery to help him with his work. But, thirsty for more education and further development, the next year Vazov went to Plovdiv to continue his education.

In Plovdiv, Vazov made his first steps as a poet. By his father’s wish he went to Oltinitsa, a university town in Romania to study trade. But his soul was not keen to explore the secrets of the economy. He was immersed in his world of poetry. Soon he left Oltinitsa and went to Braila where he met Hristo Botev. Hardly anything else in this world could have had a greater influence on Vazov than the revolutionary spirit of Botev, who was the moral father of the Bulgarian liberation struggle.

Later, he himself took part in the process of liberation and after the Bulgarian state was revived from the ruins of Ottoman rule, he was regarded as one of the most prominent figures in the country.

For more than 50 years, Ivan Vazov was the most highly regarded figure in Bulgarian literature. He was a citizen-poet who considered the social mission of literature an organic part of the nation’s life and fate. He wrote his most compelling works to glory Bulgaria’s national reawakening and to articulate the ideas of the past, lest they be forgotten by post-liberation society.

His view of the Bulgarian national character had an enormous impact, and to this day his works remain an invaluable treasure of Bulgarian cultural history. Vazov is considered the patriarch of Bulgarian literature because he provided the highest standards for future generations of writers, who would seek in his verse a solution to their doubts and a confirmation of their ideas.

Vazov was in fact the founder of all the literary genres employed by modern Bulgarian literature. His wide-ranging works are a brilliant manifestation of his artistic creativity. Partly because of his love of his homeland, its freedom and its nature, and his ability to incorporate into his works Bulgaria’s traditions, history, morality, and national spirit, Vazov has come to be regarded as Bulgaria’s national poet.

Vazov’s Pod Igoto (Under the Yoke) enjoys the status of Bulgaria’s national novel. Set against the background of the tragic April Uprising in 1876, it is an extended examination of Bulgarian character and the national awakening. From his poems, the most significant are collected in the Epopee to the Forgotten, true songs for the greatest Bulgarians in history.


Read Ivan Vazov’s novel “Under the Yoke” HERE or HERE






“The monastery curbs my restless spirit.

A person seeking repentance in it

Must banish from memory the world of sin,

Spurn every temptation, find peace within.

My conscience a different mission dictates me.

This long black cassock that piously drapes me

Does not reconcile me to heavenly joys

And whenever in chapel I raise my voice

To praise the Lord so I enter Heaven,

I think it’s to others He pays attention,

To those in the valley of tears – pour folk,

And my prayer disappears in the air like smoke,

And in anger God shuts his ears, refuses

To hear our hymns and loud hallelujahs.

I think, too, about those Heavenly Gates

That nobody knows which way they face,

The approach is not from monastic quarters,

The road from the busy world is shorter;

I think the pure tears that widows shed,

The laboring ploughman’s honest sweat,

A comforting word, a righteous endeavor,

A truth averred and upheld forever,

A brotherly hand that without any fuss

We offer a man who has need of us –

All these are dearer to God Almighty

Than the idle anthems that we are reciting.

I think every human being can find

His kin and brothers among mankind

Whom the monk on taking the vow renounces,

I think God a higher aim has found us,

And without this cassock or beard I might

Spare suffering folk some fearful plight.

I think that canonical dispensation

Will not soon abolish their lamentation,

And my fellow-man needs now not prayer

But help and counsel in his despair,

I think that the truly good shepherd is he

Who stays with his flock in the rain and heat,

My brothers a terrible yoke are bearing,

I sin because none of their woes I’m sharing.

It’s high time already for me to depart,

To leave this retreat from the world apart,

To speak new words, bear a secret message

To those who are dragging their grievous fetters,”

Thus spake he, and vanished.

For nine years he roamed

Without sleep or rest, without hearth or home,

Changing his name, under many disguises,

Stout-hearted, ready for sacrifices,

And brought understanding support and light

To slaves in a slave were the words he uttered,

Full of sweet hope that soared and fluttered.

Often he spoke of the struggle, revolt

As imminent of which was as yet unsettled.

He tested the brave to find men of mettle

To carry the glorious enterprise through;

For him every hearer was brother, too.

He turned a clear gaze to the shadowy future.

He loved his dear country and joyed in its beauty.

A rover he was, and simple as a child,

Frugal as a hermit fasting in the wild.

No stranger to hill-top, forest or valley,

There was not a path his feet had not traveled,

The wilderness, too, knew the sound of his voice,

The cottages knew it, the poor folk rejoiced

And opened their doors to him, left them unbolted.

Nothing he feared, he would sleep in the open;

Alone, deep in thought, he would take to the road.

A young man at daybreak, at nightfall – an old.

Yesterday’s merchant would now be a pauper,

Blind man or cripple – whichever was called for.

Today in the mountain, tomorrow in town,

The word of rebellion he spread all round

And spoke behind closed doors of freedom and dying,

Said now was he who would raise in the flood

The first people’s banner and shed his own blood.

Needed were courage, grit, firm resolution,

Fear was sheet villainy, pride – dissolution,

We are all equal, he said, in that hour –

People he braced with fresh vigor and power.

Every age, class and sex, trade and vocation

Joined with a will in the great undertaking:

The rich man a with money, the poor man with strength,

The maid with her needle, the sage with his pen,

Whilst he – naked, barefoot, with no land or chattels –

Was ready to lay down his life in that battle!

Utterly fearless, his courage sufficed

To die a hundred times on the cross like Christ,

To burn at stake like Huss, or to perish

Sawn, like Simon, for the truth he cherished.

For him Death was brother as well as friend.

In his sleeve he sewed poison of terrible strength.

At his waist was a trusty weapon he wielded

To terrify enemies whenever needed.

A stranger to sleep, relaxation and rest

He was spirit and made manifest.

His thoughts he expounded concisely and clearly,

His forehead at times would frown severely,

With wrath and reproach his gaze would fill,

Revealing a staunch heart and iron will.

He traveled unseen, like a phantom fleeting,

He’d turn up in church, at a neighbors’ meeting,

Appear without sign, disappear without clue,

Everywhere welcomed, everywhere pursued,

Once at a numerous public assembly

He suddenly entered, greeting presented

And giving a scoundrel a slap in the face

Quit the town secretly, leaving to trace.

His name in itself was a signal for panic,

The authorities hounded him everywhere, planted

Cordons round twenty-odd towns at a go

To trap their ubiquitous spirit-like foe.

In awe would all gaze at his earnest expression,

The title of saint he was gives by peasants

Who, huddled together away from spies,

Would listen agape and with rapturous eyes

Ti the sweet words of danger he spoke, all hearers

Found mush that had troubled their souls grow clearer.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The wonderful seed fell in people’s hearts and

Grew swiftly to yield an abundant harvest.

But he was betrayed, and betrayed by a priest!

This groveling worm, this despicable beast,

This outrage to God, on the Church this foul blemish,

Through whose vicious treason the deacon did perish!

Through infamous rogue who no shame ever saw,

Who appeared here on earth Heaven knows what for,

This sneaking betrayer, this priest in God’s service,

Such title without shame or conscience usurping,

Whose lips, from which venom and bitterness ran,

Cried basely: “Take hold of him! That is your man!”

Who raised his right hand not in blessing, but pointing

In treason – no thunderbolt struck ti destroy it! –

Whom I now deliberately do not name

For fear such a mention my poem profane,

Whose mother bereft was of reason and ruthless,

This priest with one equal in Hell – and that Judas,

Thus plunged a whole nation in mourning and tears!

And still the man lives, in our midst he appears!

Thrown into jail all in blood and in fetters

Levski to terrible pain was subjected.

Shame on his torturers – powerless to break

A heart so resistant! No moan did he make,

No curse or appeal for mercy he uttered,

But there in the darkness he proudly suffered!

Death was approaching, fear faraway.

Nothing did he in a whisper betray.

He met every query – a bitter ordeal –

With only one answer, a silence severe,

And said: “I am Levski! One and the same!”

And never once mentioned another’s name.

But keen to rob Levski of living breath

The tyrant one morning decreed his death.

The Tsars, the rabble and odious tyrants

In order to crush man’s proud aspiring

And cries of protest, and heartening thoughts,

And eternal truth – that life-giving source,

Have ever invented punishment, trying

To annihilate those whose fame is undying:

They devised for Prometheus rock and abyss,

For Socrates poison and prejudice,

The stake for John Huss, ball and chain Columbus,

The Golgotha crucifix for Jesus the humble –

And thus do such ending whose cruelty appalls

Win aureoles later, far brighter than all.

In splendor and shame, like the crucifix, hallowed!

The sight of your victims hes made our hearts ache,

We’re seen from your bar bodies swing and shake

And southerly winds with the dead limbs playing,

And jubilant tyrants their venom displaying.

O glorious scaffold! You shine with the light

Of heroes who died here! Must holy sight!

A terrible token, a sign of that freedom

For which in your shadow folk die and lie bleeding,

The lion, the hero: all honor is due

To those who to this day still die upon you.

For in that dark age we refer to as “bondage”

The rogue and the spy and the man with no honor

Would peacefully die in their forehead, their conscience – sold,

But death on your bar, holy scaffold, was always

No mark of disgrace – but on earth fresh glory,

A summit from which a brave heart could survey

Toward immortality the straightest way!


“O reckless and foolish one! Wherefore art
thou ashamed to call thyself Bulgarian?…
Or did not the Bulgars possess a kingdom and
state? Be thou not deluded, Bulgarian, but
know thine own origin and tongue…”

        Paissy (1762)

A hundred and twenty years1 back… Deep shadow!

There, where the Mount of Athos narrows,

A refuge hidden from worldly deceit,

For prayer and rest a placid retreat,

Where only is heard the Aegean roaring,

The whispering gorse and the seabird soaring,

Or the solemn tolling of a vesper bell,

In a humbly furnished, slumbering sell

That a spluttering lamp was dimly lighting,

An obscure, pale-faced monk was writing.

What was he penning there, pensive, alone?

The Life of a saint, or a sacred tome

Commenced long ago, then long forsaken,

Again at this midnight hour undertaken?

Was he recording there tokens divine,

Or composing a eulogy, fair and fine,

To a miracle-worker in wonders abounding

Of Egypt, Greece, or the Holy Mountain?

Why was he taxing body and brain?

Was he a philosopher? Was he insane?

Was this the imbecile imposition

Of an abbot of rigorous disposition?

At last he relaxed and said: “That is the end:

A new life chronicle I have penned.”

With glances of tenderest rapture he greeted

His labour of many long years, now completed,

The fruit of his vigil, his will-power’s child,

Which half of his span upon earth had beguiled –

A glorious Life! While it was begotten,

All else, even Heaven, he had forgotten!

Never did mother so tenderly gaze

On her first-born son, nor hero raise

Fond eyes to the prize of his desiring!

Like a Bible prophet in ancient style,

Or the hermit severe of Patmos isle,

Who boldly unfolded the secret of darkness

And God’s own will on the roll of parchment,

Pale and elated, a glance he hurled

To darkest chaos, to the starry world,

To the gleaming Aegean that softly slumbered,

And, raising the pages aloft, he thundered:

“Henceforth Bulgarians near and far

A history possess and a nation are!”

Let them discover from these my writings

That once they were great and again shall be mighty,

From glorious Budin to Athos Mount

Our law was esteemed of great account.

May all our brothers read here and remember

That Greeks are perfidious people and clever,

That we have repulsed them – and more than once –

That’s why they can’s stomach the likes of us;

That we, too, had kingdoms and capital cities,

And native-born patriarchs, saintly figures;

We, too, in this world have performed a good deed,

Given all Slav peoples the books they read;

When other folk shout: “You Bulgarian!” wildly,

Let brothers know this is a name to take pride in.

And know that great God, to whom praises are sing,

He, too, understands our Bulgarian tongue;

And shameful it is when a person goes running

To join with the Hellenes, his kith and kin shunning,

Spurning his God-given native speech

And his very own name, like a senseless beast.

Woe to you, fools, who like sheep are erring,

The poisonous potion of Greeks preferring,

Who fell of your very own brothers ashamed

And Hellene corruption greedily acclaim,

Who sinfully scoff at the bones of your fathers

And mock all our ways, as too simple and artless:

It’s not your own kin, though, who sully your name,

You fools, it is you are the cause of their shame!

Read and discover upon these pages

The deeds of your forebears in long-gone ages:

How bravely with many a kingdom they fought,

And powerful kings to them tribute brought,

And the Bulgar state led a great existence;

How Boris the saint in Preslav was christened,

How churches there sprang up at Assen’s will,

How the Tsar sent gifts; about Samuil,

Who lost his own soul in the depths of Hades,

Conquered Durazzo and Greece invaded;

Read here and know of Tsar Shishman as well

And how into bondage our kingdom fell;

And of Ivan Rilski, whose sacred relics

Show still their miracle-working merits;

Read how great Kroum beat Nicephorus, lined

His skull with silver and drank from in wine,

How Simeon drove out the Magyar raiders

And had from Byzantium humble obeisance.

A scholar was he, a philosopher wise,

His own native language he did not despise

And when there was no one for subjugation

He sat and wrote books as his relaxation.

Here read and now study what I have set down,

In many a legend and chronicle found,

Read, brothers, so men do not mock and ignore you,

Nor foreigners give themselves airs before you…

This book now receive! It is my bequest,

So may it be copied, made manifest,

And scattered through lowland and valley, go speeding

Wherever Bulgarians are dying, bleeding.

Find here revelation, the grace of God’s truth,

To young – gift of wisdom, to old – gift of youth!

Whoever shall read it, shall never repent it,

Who masters it, he shall have knowledge in plenty.”

Thus spake the man in the anchorite cell,

Who gazed at the past and the future as well,

Who, many a service and sacrament skipping,

Had never relinquished the pen he was gripping

And many a canon and fast had not kept,

But toiled without cease and at rest never slept.

Thus spake, a hundred and twenty years before us,

This hermit of Athos, in God’s view not flawless,

Who secretly kindled, when all ways lay dark,

In people’s awareness the very first spark.

Plovdiv, 1882


(The Defence of Perushtitsa)

O stirring of glory, O sombre sad stirring,

Days of proud struggle, O days of adversity!

Epic obscure and by us unacclaimed,

Epic abounding in heroism and shame!

The church was tight-packed with young women and children,

Insurgents ecstatic had fathers within the gray walls,

They now knew what fate lay in store for them all,

For three days the foe had been firing in fury

Around the small church. But no scaring, no luring,

No skirmish, no menace had any success.

The rebels held firm and with lips tightly pressed

Never uttered a word, not a man there intended

To sully his lips with the shame of surrender.

As hot as an oven and thick with a pall

Of gunsmoke the air by the outer church walls

Was choking their breath. The familiar cry

Of feverish hunger rose shrilly nearby.

Pale children lay screaming with faces contorted

Beside their dead mothers, near stiffening corpses,

The battle was raging within and without

And all eyes were blazing with fire devout.

The sick and the healthy, the poor and the wealthy,

Young fellows with fair hair and grey-headed elders

Were all taking part in the last fight of all.

“Be brave and fear nothing!” a mother would call

To her son as she passed him the rifle she loaded,

While grandmother, haggard and staggering, folded

Her apron to bring up more bullets to fire;

The husband stood watching, amazed and inspired:

The wife he loved dearly stood by her beloved

To see that his flashpan with powder was covered.

Their children cried out as they heard the first thud

Of bullets and saw the first spouting of blood.

The struggle was seething within and without.

Many men in in eternal chill sleep were laid out

And thick was the smoke, even death could no longer

Instill any terror. Not milk spurted strongly

But blood from the bosoms of mothers there slain.

All eyes were ablaze, as if crazed and insane.

In a frenzy old men hither, thither would run

With hands all atremble to fare any gun…

The wild foes outside in their fury unbounded –

The church had by bashibazouks been surrounded –

Were fuming and shouting and firing hot lead

And, reeling in impotent wrath, drooping dead.

Their chieftain, with bood from his wounds freely running,

Observed the grim harvest around him, said nothing,

A panicky fear left him gasping for breath

At the sight of these lowly folk sowing grim death,

Not begging for mercy but bullet-lead scattering.

Far off down the high road came suddenly clattering

Regular troops, moving swiftly along…

The sight in them heartened the foe, but among

The folk in the church it aroused consternation,

They sensed a now imminent castigation.

The battle abated… The gunsmoke cleared,

A voice calling out in the chaos was heard:

“O brothers, the bashibazouks we resisted

Because they are cruel and desperate brigands…

But here are the Sultan’s men. Let us give in!”

“No, better die fighting through thick and thin!”

“Hand over your weapons!” “No!” “What shall we do then?”

“Yield to them? No, we shall fight and subdue them!”

“Who is the traitor?” they cried in disgust.

“There’ll never be parley between them and us!”

“For shame!” cried a woman and taking a rifle,

She fired at the soldier then, reeling, fell lifeless

And all there were stunned by the deafening roar!

Their souls blazing proudly with courage unbending:

“To these Turkish hordes we shall never surrender!”

So shooting began and the battle again

Resumed its funereal fearsome refrain.

But now more funereal fearsome then ever.

Death swept through the church where all lives were in peril.

All faces bore traces of gloomy despair,

Her children no mother could recognice there.

Now guns faced the church with enormous jaws gaping.

Flames billowed, bombs burst, a hot whirlwind was raging!

The church wall was swaying and making a sound

As when a great storm him a beech on high ground

Or earth tremors waken a deep-seated rumble.

They suddenly saw the old church wall crumble.

Pale Perushtitsa, the birthplace of heroes,

Glory to you and your progeny fearless!

Glory eternal to your ashes, the grave

Where the rebels perished to surrender,

Who fought on in darkness but died in splendour.

In struggle confronting the Turkish wrath

You rose like a lion barring its path,

Your head never bowing, your sword never yielding,

Your holiest shrine never shamefully ceding,

Our freedom with sanctity you endowed

And took for our suffering vengeance proud.

To you we bow down, town to ashes burnt,

Of valiants battle a testimony stern!

Your children were staunch in these perilous hours

And made your destruction a triumph of ours,

Because your great downfall was of a new order,

In history a splendid new page it recorded.

Because amid baseness and general disgrace

You shone in blue heaven with radiant grace!

Because you fell into your grave so appalling,

Like Prague, Saragossa, with honour and glory,

All swimming in blood and enveloped in smoke;

And, finally, you were the first town to show

How people should perish – not uttering prayers

Not crying out: “Mercy!” when many were scared;

A small town, obscure, without fortress or might,

Barehanded and leaderless in your fight,

With no famous past, no renown in antiquity

That gives great and small towns a sense of equality,

In your frightful death and your heroines’ fame

You rivaled great Carthage, put Sparta to shame.

But soon came the soldiers, the church encircling,

For every side horror and death converging,

The rabble inflamed by their gluttonous rage

And thirsting for butchery, bloodshed and rape

Were grinding their teeth, bombs were bursting and falling,

The young girls were shrieking and babies were bawling.

Demented young mothers with eyes full of tears

Ran smashing their skulls on the church walls in fear

And fell to the ground, while yet others, grief-stricken

And terrified, smothered their very own children.

And then it was Kocho, a maker of boots,

An old rebel, wounded but resolute,

Called out to his young wife, a good looking woman,

Holding their golden-haired child to her bosom:

“Young wife! Now the carnage will start as foreseen.

And that’s not the worst thing… you know what I mean.

Is death what you wish?” And the poor wretched mother,

Distracted and pale, a deep cry seemed to smother.

Her infant with quivering hands she set down

And, tenderly kissed its milky white brow,

She stood up and said: “Let my child then die second!

Strike me first!” …When Kocho withdrew the sharp weapon

That pierced her while bosom, a fountain of red

Gushed forth from gash. Kocho bowing his head

Looked down at the child. The poor infant was weeping!

“Your mother shall still have you in her safe-keeping!”

He vowed and again struck as if in a dream,

His scarlet face turning away from the scene.

The little head slumped and the tiny limbs quivered,

The infant’s young blood with its mother’s blood mingled.

Said Kocho: “Of all of my strength I’m bereft,

Yet still there’s enough for one final blow left!”

With both hands he drove the hot dagger in deeply

There where his own heart was tumultuously beating,

Then fell in the pool of red blood he had spilled,

Wide-eyed, with the blade driven in to the hilt.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

And the church loudly echoed as maids and young women

Were raped or struck down and in blood there left swimming!

While God up above, gazing down through the smoke,

Watched all this unruffled and never once spoke!…


(August 11, 1877)

What if we still carry shame on our forehead,

Marks of the whip, signs of bondage abhorrent;

What if remembrance of infamous days

Hangs like a cloud over all we survey;

What if in history no place we’re allotted,

What if our name be a tragic one, what if

Old Belasitsa and recent Batak

Over our past throw their deep shadows black;

What if men mockingly laugh in our faces,

Pointing to newly lost fetters, to traces

Still on our necks of the ages-long yoke;

What if this freedom was gives our folk?

What of it? We know a recent true story,

A shining new symbol, a symbol of glory,

That proudly within every bosom pulsates

And noble strong feeling within us awakes;

There on a mounting that glows in the distance,

Heaven’s blue vault on its broad shoulder lifting,

Rises a famous wild peak with blood on its moss,

A monument huge to a deed that’s immortal,

Because a deep memory lives in the Balkans,

Because there’s a name that shall live for all time,

As bright as a legend in history it shines,

A new name, its roots to antiquity tracing,

As great ad Thermopylae, all fame embracing,

A same to wipe shame away, with its plain truth

Smashing to smithereens calumny’s tooth.

O Shipka!

For three days out youthful battalions

The pass have defended. The high mountain valleys

Re-echo the battle’s tumultuous roar.

The onslaught’s ferocious! Again the dense hordes

Along the ravine for the twelfth time are crawling

Where warm blood is flowing and bodies are sprawling.

Assault on assault! Swarm on swarm they advance!

Once more at the towering peak Suleiman

is pointing: “Rush forward! Up there are the rayahs!”

Away race the hordes in a rage wild and dire,

A thunderous “Allah” re-echoes afar.

The summit replies with a rousing “Hurrah!”,

A hail of fresh bullets and tree trunks and boulders;

Spattered with blood, our battalions boldly

Retaliate, every man in his own way

Striving to be in the front of the fray,

Each, like a hero, death bravely defying,

Determined to leave one more enemy dying.

Cannon are pounding. The Turks with a cry

Rush up the slope where they tumble and die;

Coming like tigers, like sheep they go flying,

Then come once again: the Bulgarians fighting

Like lions are running along the redoubt,

Neither heat, thirst nor toil are they worried about.

The onslaught is fierce, the rebuff no less stout.

For three days they fight but no help is arriving,

And no hope is visible on the horizon,

And no brother eagles come swiftly with aid.

No matter. They’ll die, but die true, unafraid –

As died the brave Spartans who stood against Xerxes.

Fresh waves are now rolling up; all are alerted!

A last effort’s needed: the moment is grave.

And then does Stoletov, our general brave,

Roar words of great courage: “Young volunteer fighters,

Now crown Bulgaria with laurels of triumph!

The Tsar has entrusted the pass, the whole war,

Himself even, unto these muscles, of yours!”

Thus heartened, our proud and heroic battalions

Courageously meet the next thrust of the rallying

Enemy hordes! O heroic time!

Fresh waves of assailants the cliffs now climb.

Our men have no bullets, with bravery girded,

Their bayonets broken, their breasts ever sturdy,

They’re all to a man ready gladly to die

On the ridge which the whole of the world can descry,

To die here like heroes triumphant, victorious .

“The whole of Bulgaria watches, supports us,

The peak is a high one: if we run away,

She’ll see us – so better to die here today!”

No weapons are left! What remains is the slaughter!

Each stone is a bomb and each tree-trunk a sword is.

Each object – a blow, and each soul – flame that sears.

From the peak every tree, every stone disappears.

“Grab hold of the bodies!” they hear a voice crying,

At once through the air lifeless corpses are flying,

And over the hordes like black devils they dive

And tumble and roll as if they were alive!

The Turks quake and tremble, not having seen ever

The living and death fight a battle together,

And raise a shrill cry of demoniac rage.

In life and death combat the armies engage.

Our heroes, there standing as steady as boulders,

Meet bayonet steel with steel breasts no less boldly,

And sing as they cast themselves into the fray

When they realize Death shall now snatch them away.

But still our young heroes rebuff, sink and swallow

The hordes that is wave upon wave swiftly follow.

The peak any minute shall ours be no more.

Then suddenly Radetzky arrives with a roar.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

And today, every time there’s a storm in the mountain,

The summit recall this grim day and, recounting

The story, its echoing glory relays

From valley ti valley, from age unto age!

Plovdiv, November 6, 1883

Posted in Bulgarian National Revival | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Brother Saints Cyril and Methodius

The Brother Saints Cyril (827 – 14 February 869)
and Methodius (815 – 6 April 885)
The one was spirit, the other was action

They created the first Slavonic alphabet, the Glagolita, and laid the foundations of Slavonic literature. They were born in Thessalonica and acted as Byzantine missionaries, spreading Eastern Orthodox Christianityamong the barbarian peoples. Methodius served for a while in the army, then became the governor of aSlavic province and afterwards a monk in the Olympus mountain of Asia Minor. After Cyril’s death he preached in Pannonia and Moravia, and in 873 he was appointed Archbishop of Moravia. Methodius translated Cyril’s disputes, the full text of the Bible and several fundamental canonical writings from Greekinto Old Bulgarian. Cyril (Constantine) received an excellent education at the Magnaur Academy inConstantinople and later taught philosophy there. He was the author of prayers, eulogies and stories.

As soon as it emerged as the official religion in the already disintegrating Roman EmpireChristianitybecame divided by dogmatic controversies between Rome and Constantinople, behind which were tremendous political aspirations. The 9th century marked a dramatic peak in that dissent. Newborn states of recently barbarian tribes sought conversion and they needed guidance in the new faith. Manymissionariestheologians and men of letters were involved in the struggle between the two spiritual capitals. However, the work of the brothers Cyril and Methodius of Thessalonica far outshone the confrontation between Romans and Byzantines in terms of its historic consequence. Their missionary activity laid the foundation of Slavic letters and literature, and was the impetus for the independent spiritual and cultural development of several nations.

It so happened that the mission of the two brothers, initially intended to establish Byzantine influence over the newly converted principalities of Great Moravia and Pannonia, were to bear fruit in Bulgaria. ToConstantinople, the fruit was not particularly sweet. Very soon the Bulgarian culture and the Bulgarian church blossomed in their independence, and Bulgaria obtained the first patriarchate beside the five established autocephalous churches. It is hardly likely that the Bulgarians would have had the power and the confidence to achieve all of this without the work of Saints Cyril and Methodius, which they embraced and built into the foundation of their culture.

The one was spirit, the other was action; the one was “endowed by God” with a unique talent, the other with an undaunted willpower. While Cyril’s weapon was his words, Methodius’s was prayer,hagiographers wrote. Constantine, who fifty days before his death took monastic vows and adopted the name of Cyril, was a free philosopher, a person of encyclopaedic erudition and a polygot, totally devoted to his boundless creative talent. Twleve years older, Methodius gave up a high office for monasticism and carried through the struggle to turn the Word into reality.

When Constantine was born, as the seventh son of the military commander of Thessalonica, Leo and his wife Maria, his parents sensed that they had a God-blessed child. Constantine wrote his first two works, two prayers, at a very early age, probably after a revelatory dream in which he saw the goddess that was to guide his entire life: Sophia, the resplendent goddess of wisdom. The acquisition of the worldly sciences in Constantinople‘s best school, the famous Magnaur Academy, along with the “equally brilliant” mastery of both barbarian and Christian philosophy and the contact with outstanding scholars like Leo the Philosopher and Photius: the one an iconoclast, the other an Eastern Orthodox dogmatist and a futurepatriarch, not only made Cyril a highly educated man but also helped him discover the power of his own wisdom. “What is philosophy?“, the logothete Theoctistus asked him, and received a response which was daring even for Cyril’s time: “Knowledge of the divine and the human, getting closer to God and becoming like Him who created us to His image“. He was sent on numerous missions: to the Saracens in the Arab lands with Photius (851), to the Khazars in the Crimea with Methodius (859861) where the two brothers crowned their work with the creation of the Glagolita alphabet. Those, however, were not only a preacher’s missions, but the missions of a writer as well. It is not surprising that Cyril’s hagiographers give no account of miraculous healings, so typical of God-sent elects like him. The miracles he performed were an expression of his “verbal nature“, as he himself put it. The Bible says that in the beginning was the Word, and the philosopher from Thessalonica, with his immense talent as a linguist and a writer, was to break new ground in human knowledge. In Oration on the Moving of the Relics of St. Clement of Rome he laid the foundation of a great literary tradition, devoid of empty pathos but captivating as “a feast of tongue and mind“.

In Oration Against the Trilingual Heresy (according to the so-called trilingual dogmaChristianity could be professed in only three languages – HebrewGreek and Latin) he developed a new, richly substantiated logic, much more viable than its Hellenic prototype. A powerful intellect, he created the first Slavonicalphabet with the same ease with which he had translated the eight sections of grammar in Herzon, from the only recently mastered Hebrew language. With a similar effortlessness he read the prophecy about the coming of Christ on Solomon’s goblet in Hagia Sophia and “had a perfect understanding of Samaritanbooks“, thus converting foreigners to his faith.

After Cyril was buried, by the order of the Pope, at the St. Clement church in Rome, Rome andConstantinople seemed to make peace. However, their rivalry could not come to an end, nor could Cyril’s work be left unfinished, so Methodius took over. For another fifteen years, until his death in Velehrad, he worked on the Old Bulgarian translation of key biblical and liturgical texts, attracted disciples and followers, and was appointed to a high ecclesiastical office in Pannonia and Great Moravia. He was later persecuted, brutalised, imprisoned, then eulogised again with the vicissitudes of the irreconcilable rivalry. Struggle and hard work, rather than quiet creation, marked the life of that true stoic, who not only had the courage to follow his younger brother “as an obedient servant“, but also to tell the German court: “I am no better than those who, for spreading the truth, left this world in suffering“. “My brother,” Cyril told him before he died, “we were harnessed together to plough the same furrow“. Cyril sowed the seeds, Methodius tended them and lived to see the first crop. His disciples left Moravia and headed for Bulgaria. That was where they would find the most fertile soil. As Cyril wrote in a short hagiography: “Little though I taught them, they learned much themselves“.

Posted in Middle Ages | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Geo Milev

Geo Milev (January 15, 1895, Radnevo – after May 15, 1925, Sofia), born Georgi Milev Kasabov, was a Bulgarian poet.

Geo Milev studied in Sofia and later in Leipzig where he was introduced to German Expressionism. His university thesis was on Richard Dehmel. Beginning in 1916 he fought in the World War I, where he was severely injured. After recuperating in Berlin he began to collaborate with the magazine Aktion. Upon his return to Bulgaria he started to publish the Bulgarian modernist magazine Везни (Scales), in Sofia. He contributed as a translator, theatre reviewer, director and editor of anthologies.

On May 15, 1925 Geo Milev was taken to the police station for a “short interrogation” from which he never returned. His fate remained unknown for 30 years. In 1954 during the trial of General Ivan Valkov and a group of physical executioners one of them confessed where and how the reported missing had been executed and buried. Geo MIlev was strangled and then buried in a mass grave in Ilientsi, near Sofia after the reprisals following St Nedelya Church assault. The repressive government used that as an excuse for murdering progressive intellectuals. His skull was found in the mass grave. His body was identified due to the glass eye he was wearing after he lost his right eye in World War I.

Self-portrait 1918


He published his most famous poem September in his magazine Пламък (Flame) in 1924. It describes the brutal suppression of the Bulgarian uprising of September 1923 against the military coup d’état of June 1923.

 You can read “September” by Geo Milev in English here

Footsteps on the Stairs

Leda Mileva (Geo Milev’s daughter)

I hardly remember my father. I was less than five when he ‘vanished without trace’ — that was the first official version of his death in 1925. But, having grown up admist his family and friends, amidst his extensive multilingual library — Geo Milev’s only real possession — my picture of my vanished father has always been vivid and sharp. His presence in our home was almost tangible. And because a phrase like ‘vanished without trace’ does not mean much to a little girl, for a long time I did not cease to believe that one day he would return. We were living in rented accommodation, as a rule on the top floor of various, for their time, tall buildings. Whenever I heard footsteps behind me as I climbed the stairs I always stopped and with a pounding heart timidly turned to see whether these were not, at long last, the footsteps of my father.

It was my mother who most often talked to me about him. My grandparents, with whom I spent all my school holidays in Stara Zagora, also spoke a great deal about him. And now, whenever I try to say something about Geo Milev the man, I rely principally on their memories.

My grandmother, who had borne and raised six children, maintained that her first-born son Georgi, because of his concentration and wide range of interests, had from earliest childhood stood out from the others. At first, at the age of only three or four, he had shown an exceptional liking for drawing. His father, who had a bookshop, had to bring him home a pad, pencils, and a paint-box. But the young artist painted not only on his drawing pad but also on the walls and on the cupboard doors. He soon began to draw whole pictures, as well as little horses and dogs. At primary school he made successful sketches of his teachers and of everyone else who attracted his attention. A little later he showed a passion for drawing caricatures, many of which are preserved to this day.

At the age of five he already knew the alphabet and declared that he wanted to go to school. At that time children entered the first form at the age of seven, and it was impossible for such a young child to be admitted as a pupil. But little Geo was so insistent that his parents were compelled to do something. They found a schoolmistress they knew and asked her to allow the child to attend school for a few days, so he could see for himself that it would not interest him. The teacher agreed. But things did not work out the way his parents had expected. Geo soon became a good pupil and continued to attend to the end of the year. The following autumn he was admitted as a regular second form pupil.

His interest in drawing and the representative arts continued as he grew up. This is confirmed by some ten self-portraits of Geo Milev which have been preserved. Other interests also appeared very early on in his life – the theatre, music, and the study of foreign languages.

All this began in the small provincial town of Stara Zagora, where the modest house of the bookseller Milyo Kasabov, with its large courtyard full of flowers, is now the Geo Milev Musem. The old well is still there and flowers still bloom. But the first thing to attract the visitor’s attention is an enormous oak tree, growing between the well and the entrance, raising its trunk high above the brick wall which surrounds the courtyard, spreading its massive branches into the quiet street and rust­ling its green leaves almost as far as the houses on the opposite side. That oak tree, a rarity in Stara Zagora, famous as a town of lime trees, has its own history, told to me by my uncle Boris, my father’s younger brother.

On Sunday mornings grandfather Milyo often took his two sons for a walk in the park by the railway station. One day the boys found some acorns there. ‘Out of this small acorn can grow the biggest and most beautiful tree,’ grandfather ex­plained, ‘a very healthy tree that can live more than a thousaiid years.’ The boys each put a few acorns in their pockets and decided to plant them in the courtyard of their house. And in fact two small seedlings did grow from them. The boys dug around them and watered them, but Boris’s tree soon withered. The oak planted by the elder brother, however/the majestic tree spreading its branches out over the little street which is now called Geo Milev Street, is approximately ninety years old. According to my uncle it was planted in 1900 or 1901.

Maybe it was from these early childhood experiences that the oak tree entered into Geo Milev’s awareness as a symbol of majesty and tenacity. It appears in his poem September in the following lines:


over the Balkan peaks,

with their navels turned

to the sky

and the eternal sun,

lightning flashed.

— Thunder crashed

straight into the heart of the giant hundred-year-old oak.

That poem also repeatedly refers to the Balkan mountain range which traverses Bulgaria from west to east. There, in a pic­turesque village on its flank, called Maglizh, my grandfather’s family often spent several weeks during the hottest part of the summer.

Geo, by then a grammar school pupil, loved those holidays. He was moved by the beauty of the mountains. He would spend hours sitting on the high and not easily accessible Black Rock beyond the village, deep in thought, listening to the song of the Balkan mountains. My grandmother told me that on one occasion, as she was talking to some women in the village square, she turned towards the Black Rock. ‘Can you see it?’, she asked, ‘An eagle sits perched on the rock.’ The other women now turned their heads. ‘Some eagle! Can’t you see?’, one of the women exclaimed, ‘That’s your son Geo!’ His mother froze with horror. But the young eagle returned after a while, boldly and joyfully. From afar one could hear him singing his favourite song: ‘Ah, forests, Balkan forests . . .’

Childhood and student years in Sofia and Leipzig, a visit to London which left a deep impression on him (reflected in his unfinished long poem ‘Hell’) soon passed, and the young poet found himself face to face with a grim reality. One rainy day he was sent to the fighting line. ‘Throughout the day there is waste land all round,’ he wrote in his wartime diary. ‘Only the terrible whistle of the shells continually reiterates the terrible thought: “War!”.’

Soon he was to experience its full horror. In the spring of 1917 fierce enemy artillery fire cracked his skull. Geo lost his right eye. Only by a miracle did he survive. Yet in spite of his severe wounds he was still fired by a desire to read, to work with all his strength, to ensure that he lived a full and valuable life.

Against his parents’ objections, and before he was fully recovered, he married a young actess and intellectual, Mila Keranova, who had recently returned from Paris where she had studied philology at the Sorbonne. And although they had little money, the young family was soon increased by two daughters.

Our home, which I remember vividiv, was in the very centre of Sofia, by the market hall. Under the windows of the big building, which before the war had been the post office, the trams clanked by. With the acute shortage of accommodation after the war many families were crov. ded into that building. And so we lived in one large room on the fourth floor; that room contained everything – bedroom, children’s nursery, study.

My mother has left an accurate account of the circumstances in which her husband worked, feverishly and untiringly for the next five years. ‘He wrote on a small plain table [which is now in the Geo Milev Museum] in his small, modest but interesting study,’ my mother recorded in her memoirs. ‘One wall of his study was taken up by his large library, and the opposite wall was formed by a screen which divided off the bedroom. On the study side the screen was painted by Geo with cubist figures and in the middle it had a small door with a curtain of dark blue cloth to which I had stitched some golden stars and a crescent moon cut out by Geo. By the table Geo had a small settee with many cushions, painted by him and embroidered by me. I used to sit there and listen to Geo reading to me. He smoked a lot, and would get me to make him strong coffee. Geo was infinitely considerate towards me and the children.

Clearly there was not a lot of room for us children and we often played with our dolls under the table in the bedroom behind the screen. Friends of my father’s would say that no matter what time of night they passed our building there was always a light in our window. ‘Geo is working,’ they said.

In spite of his unbelievable amount of work my father had many friends – mainly writers, artists and painters, who some­times interrupted his evening’s work on his manuscripts and noisily thronged cur flat. ‘Those meetings/ my mother recalled, ‘were rapturously bohemian. We always had to scrape together everybody’s meagre means in order to prepare a dinner. But they were meetirgs with rich literary programmes, not plan­ned, of course, but as soon as Geo stood at the centre it was impossible not to recite verse or talk about the theatre, or sing songs in all the languages we knew. Geo was carried away, forgetting that th ? following morning they would call for the proofs. But these evenings in a circle of friends were his only relaxation.’

At that time th° fascist government of Bulgaria proclaimed its ominous ‘Defc nce of the Realm’ law. My mother has often told me that as soon as she read the first few sections of the then unfinished poem ‘September’ she saw herself as a widow and her children as orphans. She did not conceal from her husband this terrible premonition. But he only laughed and tried to reassure her. ‘This is a literary work; have no fear! Don’t cry, it’s useless, no one and nothing can stop me. I must finish and publisli this poem.’

Even after the confiscation of No. 7/8 of the periodical Plamak, in which the finished poem was published, and despite several police searches of the house, my father had no intention of emigrating or even of leaving Sofia, although his friends were advising him to do so. One of my few clear memories from that time is the morning of our unexpected parting. I can still see the dark silhouette of the policeman framed in the door as he summoned my father for ‘a little questioning’. My mother gave him a clean handkerchief and he followed the policeman out without even saying goodbye — surely they were just summoning him for a little questioning and he would soon be back for his morring cup of coffee.

I remember very clearly how, soon afterwards, my mother started searching for him from one precinct to another, from one prison to another, from one town to another. I used to go off to school, and -vhen, returning home, I would hear footsteps behind me on the stairs I used to stop. My heart would pound. I would turn timidiy. But my faint hope would again dissolve. No, these were not the footsteps of my father who had been summoned to the police station ‘for a little questioning’.

Leda Mileva

Posted in Literature Between the Liberation and the End of WWI | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Atanas Dalchev

Atanas Hristov Dalchev (June 12, 1904 – January 17, 1978) was a Bulgarian poet, critic and translator. He is an author of poetry that brightly touches some philosophical problems. He translates poetry and fiction from French, Spanish, English, German and Russian authors. Recipient of the Herder Prize in 1972 (for his “…all over literary work…”) and order “Znak Pocheta” (or Order of the Badge of Honor) in 1967 (for popularisation of Russian culture in Bulgaria).

He was born in Thessaloniki (Solun) and graduated from high school in Sofia in 1922. His fatherHristo Dalchev was a lawyer and as a MP from People’s Federative Party (Bulgarian Section)represеnted Bulgarians from Macedonia in the Ottoman parliament.

Atanas Dalchev’s Herder Prize, 1972

In 1926, Dalchev published his first collection called Prozorets (“Window”) and graduated in pedagogics and philosophy at Sofia University in 1927. Dalchev published the collections of poetry Stihotvorenia (“Poems”, 1928) andParis (1930). From 1945 until 1956, he was under pressure from the communist authorities and was forced to publish only translations.

He died in Sofia in 1978.

His works has been translated in French, Slovak, Czech, Hungarian, Russian, German, Italian, Polish, French, Spanish, and also in English, Turkish, Chinese, Japanese, Arabian, Swedish and some other languages in periodic or in literary medleys.

Poems by Atanas Dalchev:


Won`t the snow come down from the sky

like a shining white angel

at least once

to whiten the iron gutters,

to cover the asphalt boulevards?

– I dont`t think it will.

In this city, black as charcoal,

the winter will probably be back, too,

and we shall never know the angels and the snow.

And if the snow does come one day

policemen and prostitutes

will trample it, ruthless, cruel, beneath their shoes,

and the smoke from railway stations and chimneys

will blacken its white feathers. . .

There will be white snow only in gardens

where children have played.*


That Spring was like any other Spring.

The sky was clear and hard after a rainy night.

The windows of the houses were shining,

the tiles above the eaves were shining,

the wet grass was shining

and the sun sucked flames

out of the lake. The grass was growing

and the trees budding imperceptibly.

On the road from the park,

paled by idleness

five legless men were going

home in their wheel chairs.

They were looking at the young leaves on the branches

sparkling under droops of rain

like many coloured chandeliers,

and they thought joylessly

that Spring had come and everything was growing

except the two sad stumps left them

by the iron hail of war.

This is what they were thinking, as other wheeled chairs,

prams, were coming towards them from the other side:

mothers and nannies had come out

with their rosy little children

for the morning walk.

The meeting was unexpected and unpleasant.

The women went on their way in silence.

And the cripples watched the prams

for a long time

and a huge grief, impotent anger,

swelled in their souls;

life seemed to be an insult,

and the light a mockery

that shot at them

from every pane and puddle,

poured through the green trees

dripping from the wet leaves.*


I am wandering about the street alone.

Red as the roofs, the sun spreads slowly

behind them its last glow in the West.

And fixing it with my eyes I remember.

There will be the same glow in Naples.

The windows at the top of buildings

will all be flickering as if on fire.

The whole bay of Naples will be glittering.

Like grass swaying in the evening breeze

green waves will be rolling in the harbour

and through the noise and smoke, like a herd

of cows in the evening, the boats

wallowing in the water, lowing.

People in gay clothes will be standing

on the quayside, blessing the end of day

well spent and free from care.

But I am no longer there.

There will be a glow over Paris, too.

They will be closing the Luxembourg Gardens.

A trumpet call, passionate, drawing

down the darness as if summoned by those notes,

the night falling lightly on the white trottoirs.

A crowd of children following the garden,

listening in ecstasy, happy, innocent,

to the rapturous brass call,

each one trying to get closest

to the wonderful trumpeter.

Through the wide open gates

people stream out, noisy, gay.

But I am no longer one of them.

Why can`t we be, at the same time,

both here and there – everywhere

life beats continuously and hard?

We are always dying, slowly disappearing

first from always dying, slowly disappearing

first from this place, then from another,

until we vanish altogether in the end.*

*Translated from Bulgarian by Roy Macgregor-Hastie.


You`ve expected it for many years.

But the miracle is here every hour.

See the mover passing by your house

with a heavy mirror!

As he walks, the streets, the houses

and the fences zoom,

people come up from the shining bottom,

cars fly out in rage like birds from a cage.

Town squares start to sway,

and trees,

roofs and balconies fall down,

blue skies flash.

You dont`t have to wonder why the mover

stoops and makes so slowly every step.

He is holding in his human hands

a whole new and amazing world.


Translated from Bulgarian by Vladimir Levchev.


The hands of the adverse clock
Depict on its face
The twelve circles of my hell
And reap my poisoned hours.

And I`m lying on the wooden floor
With my hair wet from cold clammy sweat
And I`m dying in the room under the roof,
So close to the sky.

And down there cars are passing by,
Trams are burning the wind
And laughter and screams are sounding,
And the taverns and brothels rumbling.

And to deafen the sorrow in me
Sometimes I sit down by the window
And from there I throw at the people
The dirt of the old pots with no flowers.

Oh, I understand: this jolly world
Doesn`t end with me and my death;
I am a piece of useless sorry carrion
And could I be their brother ?

I don`t want pity from the people!
I have everything: mine is death.
And I will put out my tongue at the world,
Hung on the black window.

Posted in Literature After WWII | Tagged | Leave a comment