Penkov's collection of short stories, East of the West: A Country in Stories, will be published in June by FSG.
On Penkov’s website he includes a brief history of Bulgaria along with a description of what inspired him to write the stories that make up the collection:
I wanted people to listen and be moved by our tales, and to show them that Bulgarians are not all car thieves and prostitutes, though there are plenty of those too. As a boy I’d listened to my father and felt calm and safe, and twenty years later I wanted to feel that same way. Writing about Bulgaria was the only way I knew that would get me back to Bulgaria – not just my family, whom I miss greatly, but also our muddy village roads, black fields, blue mountains...He concludes:
Today, more than a million Bulgarians live abroad, and I have seen countless parents (my own included) encourage their children to leave, to seek a better life away from home; and I’ve seen Bulgarians change their names, abandon their language, take on new beliefs, new ideologies and identities, forget where they came from. Yes, history repeats itself and nothing is new under the sun, but history can be forgotten. With this book, I wanted to remember.Penkov’s site includes brief excerpts from each of the eight stories in East of the West, and he’s also started a blog as something of an anti-new year’s resolution. Hopefully he'll keep at it.