6 more books to introduce you to Bulgarian literature

Dive into another six Bulgarian books. They will entertain you while expanding your understanding of the country and its people

Written by Bozhidar Ivanov, edited by Scott Green, photos by Zhanet Stamatova

If you feel like the current restrictions are stopping you from experiencing Bulgarian culture to the fullest, (and you’ve already read the six books we’ve previously recommended) then we have prepared six more books to educate and entertain you.

Circus Bulgaria by Deyan Enev

Deyan Enev has spent many years as a journalist, writing over 2 000 articles, 600 short stories, and publishing over 15 books. This background grants him a deep cultural and political understanding of Bulgaria, which is widely celebrated abroad: his work has been translated into German, Norwegian, and English. Circus Bulgaria collects 50 stories, each representing a slice of life in Bulgaria. People say his stories are like walking down Rakovska street – you can meet anyone there – from performance monkeys and forest spirits to French-speaking marionettes. His short and often enigmatic pieces offer plenty of food for thought, as he presents Bulgarian life and its peculiarities in a rich and dazzling dress. 

Street Without a Name by Kapka Kasabova

If you want to understand why Bulgarians feel so consumed by their communist past, there are few books better than Street Without a Name for the task.

After emigrating to the UK with her family during the communist regime and suffering endless mockery about her nationality, Kapka Kasabova returns to Bulgaria with an expat’s point of view and explores the world of the newly arrived democracy, in which “yesterday's bully was today's entrepreneur.” The book is also a memoir of her childhood life during the grey and oppressive communist regime, which she retells with brutal honesty, but also a dash of dark humor. When she asks “why is everything so ugly?”, her mother cannot give an answer other than tears. Past and present, communism and democracy, home and abroad, East and West, Street Without a Name is not only a modern snapshot of the country, but an evocative and insightful meditation on change, nationality, and belonging.

Poems by Hristo Botev

Few Bulgarian poets are held in higher regard than Hristo Botev. He lived not as a poet, but as a rebel – disgusted by the way the Bulgarians were enslaved by the Ottoman Turks, he began supporting the secret movement for liberation. He was exiled, imprisoned, and lived in utter poverty, but never surrendered his goal. Using his charisma and brilliance, he gathered secret revolutionary comities in Romania and edited many Bulgarian revolutionary newspapers, where some of his poetry and journalistic work appeared.

In 1876, he led a company of 205 rebels to join the fight for liberation. He was tragically shot in battle at age 28, leaving only 26 poems. He used his poetry as an apology to his mother for risking his life in the battle for freedom, as a way to convince his love he is doing the right thing, and to pay respect to other Bulgarian heroes like Vasil Levski and Hadji Dimiter. With his direct, raw, and emotional verses, deprived of literary pretense, Botev was one of the first modern Bulgarian poets, and still one of the greatest.

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My Brother’s Suitcase by Nevena Dishlieva-Krysteva

We all miss traveling. While the pandemic is leaving airplanes grounded, we try to find ways to experience new places and soak up exotic cultures from our homes. A book like My brother’s suitcase is the perfect vehicle for driving down the highway of your imagination. The twenty-two stories in this anthology deal with the theme of migration and finding a home away from home. They will take you on a trip around the world through places like Canada, South America, and Vietnam, and introduce you to people who share their personal stories and meditations about what is a home. The anthology is bound to speak to expats and foreigners, and will make you consider what you carry around in your suitcase, both the physical and the mental one.

Party Headquarters by Georgi Tenev

The story follows an unnamed hero, who reunites with his dying father-in-law, a former communist dictator, who sends him on a mission to deliver a suitcase full of money. What follows is a journey in which the narrator reminisces about his life in the army, his ill-fated attempt to study medicine, and falling in love with his wife, the daughter of the dictator. This relationship allows him an insider’s perspective of life in the political elite in Bulgaria, during events such as the Chernobyl disaster, where the dictator refused to reveal the secret to his people but leave them to eat radioactive food. Tenev tells a darkly funny story about people facing a new future, without having quite come to terms with the past, and of a country stuck in transition.

Two Essays by Georgi Markov

It is a shame so little is available from this iconic Bulgarian journalist, as a lot of his translated work is now out of print. Only two of his essays are easily accessible, but they nevertheless offer a surgical look into Bulgaria’s communist past (spotting a theme already?), a place where “there’s no prostitution […] because there can be no prostitution in a communist state. Here we simply have loose women, who are a bad influence and sometimes disrupt the lives of our citizens”.

Markov’s life story is fascinating, as he was one of the most vocal critics of the communist regime. He defected to London in the 1960s, where he worked as a reporter for the BBC, Deutsche Welle, and Radio Free Europe. He was such a big enemy of the regime that in 1978, he was assassinated by the Bulgarian Secret Service and the KGB by being stabbed with a tiny bit of ricin poison from the tip of an umbrella.

We hope these authentic Bulgarian stories infect you with the free spirit of the country and make you see the little everyday absurdities here in a more positive light.

Find the first six books we recommend in our library.

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