A Tribute to Valeri Petrov

28.08.2014 § 1 Comment

valeri-004

On August 27, 2014 we lost the poet Valeri Petrov. The writer, the translator, the humanist, the thinker, the example Valeri Petrov.

And oh! So gorgeous-starry was the night,
That our everyday plights,
Vain, summery,
Fleeting,
With their “Wonderful”s, “Hurrah”s and “Bravo”s,
Head over heels took off, retreating.

For I felt large under the starry dome
– and are we naught but atoms with no goal? –
And all around was peace and calm,
And beauty filled my soul.

             Valeri Petrov

With his poetry, he could make us laugh and cry within a single stanza, experience the chill of autumn or the breath of spring. In translating Shakespeare, he laid out the staggering beauty of Bulgarian verse before us and created something more: the stories and images of the Bard in our own melodious tongue. With the script for “Knight Without Armour” (YouTube link), he put his finger on our worst societal sores through the eyes of a carefree, as-yet-unburdened child. With “Five Tales”, he gave our children mountains, deer friends and the ocean floor to imagine and explore. He never grew up, and yet his genius never faltered, never waned, until the end.

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Bulgaria on the map?

30.11.2013 § Leave a comment

thumbSo this is a thing that happened. Americans were asked to label the countries on a map of Europe. As could be expected, most were able to identify large tourist destinations like the UK, France and Spain, but very few knew anything about Central or Eastern Europe.

Now, this is not necessarily surprising. Central and Eastern Europe have long been plagued by stereotypes and few Americans have ever gone there. They see no reason to, since they can get all their vacationing done in places familiar from popular culture and ones they perceive as safer, not to mention closer to the States.

What I found unusual and quite disturbing is the amount of knowledge people had about Bulgaria specifically.

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The New York Times on Sofia

27.01.2013 § 1 Comment

nevskiHere’s an interesting piece in the NYT on spending 36 hours in Sofia, which I strongly recommend you do if you can’t spend more 😉

Gamebooks in Bulgaria: the Reader as Protagonist

24.01.2013 § 1 Comment

lavica s knigi-igri

Dear readers, long time no update. Please forgive my absence. I’m restarting regular contributions to this blog with a post I’ve been meaning to put together for a while.

 The early to mid-nineties were a strange time in Bulgaria. Many people growing up in those days (like myself) found themselves in a gaming vacuum. Computers and gaming consoles were exceedingly rare, yet we were all well aware of their potential as entertainment devices, and we were desperately searching for something to fill the entertainment void. All that was needed was a fortuitous event and an invention to fill the void.

One day, Lubomir Nikolov (Любомир Николов), an English-Bulgarian translator, stumbled across an English gamebook in a used bookstore. He quickly figured out how to read it, and realized that no one in Bulgaria had seen anything like it.

A gamebook is a piece of interactive fiction in which the reader makes choices that affect the progression of the story. In a sense, the reader is playing the book as a game, being rewarded for good choices and punished for bad ones. Gamebooks are often written in the first or second person, contributing to the illusion that the reader is in fact the main character of the book. « Read the rest of this entry »

Little Cloud of White (Oblache le byalo)

02.10.2012 § 2 Comments

Little Cloud of White

Tell me, tell me, little cloud of white
Where you’ve come from, where you’ll fly tonight?
Past my father’s house did you not hurry
Did you hear a mother’s whispered worry

“Oh I wonder how my boy is faring
Foreign bread with strangers he is sharing”
Fly and tell her, little cloud of white
That you saw me fit and well tonight.

Hurry, bring her from me fondest greetings
It’s been so long, but the end is nearing
Soon my village rooftops I’ll behold
And my mother in my arms enfold.

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The Treasure of Slaveykov Square

24.08.2012 § 1 Comment

Sofia’s Slaveykov Square, named after father-son poet duo Petko and Pencho Slaveykov, is a bustling marketplace for one of the most coveted and important commodities in the nation: books. As a small country with a significant contribution to world literacy, reading and books have always been prized very highly in Bulgaria. The years of the Socialist boom were also the heyday of publishing, with hundreds of Bulgarian authors being printed alongside translations of world classics. Many of these books, often produced in hardcover and printed to last, have been resurfacing in used book stalls alongside new books and editions. « Read the rest of this entry »

Care and Neglect

27.07.2012 § 2 Comments

On Veliko Tarnovo‘s main pedestrian shopping street, among the artisans and souvenir shops, stand two buildings which are not too different, really. They’re both heritage buildings, over 100 years old, both owned by private entities, and they exhibit the perfect duality of the conditions of private enterprise in Bulgaria. Yin and yang, order and chaos, careful preservation and haphazard decay. « Read the rest of this entry »

Blazing Bulgaria Nominated for Very Inspiring Blogger Award!

26.07.2012 § 1 Comment

Some 50 Posts and almost 2400 pageviews since I started this blog, I feel I’ve just barely reached a small, but critical core mass of followers, casual readers and materials so I can begin to represent Bulgaria well to the world.

Which is why I was extremely pleasantly surprised when Esenga’s Voice nominated my blog for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Her travel and experience blog is extremely well-written, and you will find yourself re-reading many passages for the sheer beauty of her words. I want to thank her from the bottom of my heart, for honouring me in this way, but also for giving me a platform to single out those few blogs that make my life better with their inspirational writing.

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The Comfort of Familiarity…and Big Macs (Updated)

24.07.2012 § 5 Comments

In August of 2010, I had just arrived in Sofia for a month-long stay in Bulgaria. I’d rushed out to buy кисело мляко, сирене and лютеница, to have a taste of authentic Bulgarian things, and I was excited to participate in a ritual I like to call The Walk.

The Walk essentially consists of my taking the trolley down to Sofia University and strolling through all the places in the centre of the city that I want to refresh in my memory. It is a slow, leisurely affair, notably because usually it’s undertaken in the scorching summer heat, and it serves to suffuse me with the understanding that I am, indeed, home. You will see many of these landmarks in future posts if you haven’t already, but they include the yellow cobbles, the National Theatre (where I spend a good half an hour admiring it and wondering what might have been if I’d been a superfamous actor slash director slash sex symbol person…but I digress) and a dozen other known and unknown places that really ground me, telling me “Yes, you are in Sofia”.

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Bulgarians Around the World

28.06.2012 § 1 Comment

I stumbled across Fusion Tables – a cool new Google feature that lets users create, merge and visualize tables, and immediately used it for something Bulgaria-related. The map below represents the number of Bulgarians per country, as estimated by the embassy or consulate of each country, for 2011.

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Memory and Oblivion

12.06.2012 § 3 Comments

History knows hundreds of cases of historical facts being forgotten or purposefully shuffled towards oblivion. The purpose of history is, in my mind, to know where one stands by knowing where one stood and moreover to learn from past mistakes and appreciate the good and the bad of previous historical contexts.

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“Don Juan” at the National Theatre

23.05.2012 § 2 Comments

In the dimly lit colonnade of a villa’s courtyard, a blindfolded young lady is laughingly following the call of a tiny bell in the hand of a masked gentleman. Her laughter echoes from the empty stage. Three masked figures peel away from the shadows and join their game with predatory grace. Two grab the gentleman, gag him and drag him off the stage. The third takes out a bell and lures the lady towards him. Completely oblivious, she trustingly approaches the predator calling to her with the bell of her beloved. He lunges at her and she screams in fear. Her screams attract the men from the house. Cornered and surrounded, the predator shoots the girl’s father and disappears in the ensuing chaos.

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The “Bulgarian Alps”

15.05.2012 § 4 Comments

I am a “summer Bulgarian”. I ordinarily reside in Canada and I’m only in Bulgaria for short bursts of time, usually in the summer. After the obligatory two weeks spent with various grandparents, I used to go to the seaside. However, four years ago my cousin convinced me to visit the Seven Rila Lakes with him. After a three-day hike through one of the most beautiful mountains in Bulgaria, I was converted: I was an avid hiker.

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