Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Satire of Alek Popov

In the opening chapters of Mission London by Alek Popov (Istros Books, November 2014, translated by Daniella and Charles Gill de Mayol de Lupe), the staff of the Bulgaria’s UK Embassy awaits the arrival of the newly appointed ambassador. “They sat fidgeting ... beneath the map of Bulgaria, with its cold pink and yellow colouring. Malicious tongues had it that the map had been put there not so much to arouse patriotic spasms in the employees but to serve as a reminder of where they came from and where they could be returning if they were not sufficiently careful."

Second Secretary Kishev, who had been in the UK for more than two years, “liked life on the island,” but Ambassador Varadin Dimitrov viewed his staff “as a gang of good-for-nothings, parasites living on the back of the state.” He felt he needed to "remind them that this job was not a winning lottery ticket.”

Monday, June 4, 2018

In Appreciation of Bulgarian Literature

Ever since my return from Bulgaria in 2011 I have looked for ways to retain a connection to the country. In addition to using Bulgaria as the setting for my two suspense novels and writing travel articles encouraging tourists to visit, I have kept my eyes open for books that would refresh my memories of the two years I lived in Sofia.

My connection with Bulgaria led to my participation in Bulgarian Literature Month, organized by the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative, a website which “strives to raise the visibility of world literature for adults and children at the local, national and international levels.”

During the month of June, “readers will have the opportunity to get an overview regarding Bulgarian literature that is available in English translation.” International readers must take into consideration that very few books by Bulgarian authors have been translated into English. Bulgarian Literature Month, organized and curated by Thomas Hübner, enables English-speaking readers to at least get to “know ... the tip of the iceberg of Bulgarian literature.”

I chose as my topic the first two novels of Alek Popov, a Bulgarian novelist, dramatist, essayist, and short story writer. His novel Mission London was first published in 2001 while his second novel, The Black Box, was first published in 2007. Both books have been translated into English although Popov’s third novel, The Palaveevi Sisters (2013) has not yet been published in English translation. The common element of his first two novels is Popov’s wry, eastern European humor. Popov’s satirical writing gives comical insight into Bulgaria’s efforts to transition from a communist state to a modern democracy.

Read my article The Satire of Alek Popov on the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative website.