Monday, May 21, 2012

Absinthe 17 Preview: Hristina Keranova

This is the 17th in a series of posts previewing the new issue of Absinthe, our 17th, focused on Bulgaria. In this post we an excerpt from an essay by Hristina Keranova.

Rain and the Making of an Immigrant Translator

It all started with the rain. The rain is different here, in Atlanta, the American
Southeast. It pours, pelting vigorously on everything in its way. It’s a
downpour, a squall, hurricane . . . In my memories, Bulgarian rain rarely had
such commanding presence. It is tolerant and will even allow you to run to the
neighbor’s across the street for the daily coffee and still be dry. It invites you to
walk in it and even . . . dance. Fred Astaire would have felt more comfortable
dancing in the Bulgarian rain.

That rain story sounded weird to American ears. Most people I shared it
with looked at me in disbelief. I knew I was exaggerating, but I kept repeating
it because to me, it sounded poetic and somehow restricted the tearful
sentimentality in my nostalgia, making it possible to share without provoking too
much pity.

Whatever the reaction was, I had found a way of expression and could
again withdraw to listen to the rhythm of the rain in my head coming from a
poem I once knew about another European rain, the Parisian variety. In the
poem, a Bulgarian poet described rain as generously spilling gold coins on
the sidewalk. I remembered how my literature teacher at school taught that
poem, her eyes brimming with love for rain and Paris, and although I enjoyed
the past the poem brought back, I also became slowly aware of the increasingly
nostalgic trend in my general disposition. The poem’s magnetism for me was
partly in the text, but mostly in its rhythm, which physically recreated the bursts
of rain on the asphalt. The drumming of the raindrops on the painting of the girl
on the sidewalk washing it away affected my senses directly and the melody of
the poem in my head gave substance to my sadness.

READ MORE by ordering Absinthe 17.

Learn more about Bulgarian literature at the Contemporary Bulgarian Writers site.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Absinthe 17 Preview: Nikolay Boykov

This is the 16th in a series of posts previewing the new issue of Absinthe, our 17th, focused on Bulgaria. In this post we present a poem by Nikolay Boykov.

Dream of the Wall and Key

                                 for Alex Miller

I slept huddled next to a wall of doors
endless like a wall without end
I woke up
in my mouth was a key
I unlocked the first closest door
There in a windowless room
huddled next to the wall opposite the door
a man sat and slept
in his mouth a key
I woke him up
and we went to wake up
the others asleep
behind other doors of white rooms
Until I woke up

Translated by Jonathan Dunne

READ MORE by ordering Absinthe 17.
(c) Neva Micheva

Learn more about Nikolay Boykov and Bulgarian literature at the Contemporary Bulgarian Writers site.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Absinthe 17 Preview: Ivan Dimitrov

This is the 15th in a series of posts previewing the new issue of Absinthe, our 17th, focused on Bulgaria. In this post we present an excerpt from a novel by Ivan Dimitrov.

from Life as a Missing Spoon, translated by Angela Rodel

THE STORY OF MY TRANSFORMATION INTO A JUNKIE began one warm evening in early summer on a park bench near the National Palace of Culture. There my friends and I were drinking beer, discussing Pelevin and thinking of going to a book premiere. What book? You’ll surely ask, since everyone knows that kids these days don’t read much. Well, Kamen asked me the same thing, too.

“The latest book by a writer, an old friend of my mom’s. I think they went to high school together,” I told him.

The writer in question was one of our closest family friends. He was also connected with my parents’ business, since they owned a publishing house.

“OK, but what’s the book about, Nikola?”

Kamen often became intolerable when he got his drink on — he simply loved to argue, to pick apart your every word, and he was pretty aggressive about it. I had long since stopped letting him get to me.

“I haven’t read it, I just glanced through it. But I do know that it’s long-awaited, this writer hasn’t published anything in six years. Rumor has it that it’s gonna be the novel of the year, maybe of the decade. The elusive Big Novel about the transition or some bullshit like that.”

“Wasn’t the literature of grand narratives in crisis?” Kamen smirked.

“Tough to say, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this novel is the book of the year or the decade. Lots of things point to it, most of all the critics.”

“I don’t give a shit about the critics, dude. What do you think?”

“It’s a novel for a different generation. We’re not there, we’re missing.”

That day, everything was going without a hitch. We were having fun and were slightly buzzed from the beer and any second we would be heading off to a cultural event.

READ MORE by ordering Absinthe 17.

Learn more about Ivan Dimitrov and Bulgarian literature at the Contemporary Bulgarian Writers site.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Absinthe 17 Preview: Yanitsa Radeva

This is the 14th in a series of posts previewing the new issue of Absinthe, our 17th, focused on Bulgaria. In this post we present an excerpt from a story by Yanitsa Radeva.

from The Candy Dishtranslated by Angela Rodel

The woman, who was cracking her knuckles and whom the other woman had called “Sophie” before going into the hospital, ordered her second espresso. It was already past 5 p.m., but it wasn’t his job to ask whether it wasn’t a little late, it was his job to sell coffee, so he put a new dose in the little basket and pressed the button on the machine. “With milk,” the woman said and he nodded, stopping the machine when the plastic cup filled halfway and adding a splash of milk, he didn’t feel like asking whether that was enough — “if it isn’t, she’ll say so” — he thought and set the cup in front of her. The woman dug into the sugar bowl, stirred in a whole four spoonfuls and went back to the table by the window to see whether the other woman wasn’t on her way back already. “She’s really taking a long time,” he said to himself, “they usually stay half-an-hour max, they don’t let them stay any longer, but she’s been gone a whole hour now, and she doesn’t seem like anybody too important.” Then it crossed his mind that it might have something to do with that accident today, who knows, he would find out more than they’d reported on the radio — he decided to chat her up. He had a tattoo on his left arm from his stint in the military, they had been quite common back then — a blue anchor, he was in the navy, right? — and he’d racked up quite a bit of experience with that anchor, he couldn’t believe it himself — the chicks, when they saw that anchor in the nightclubs, he didn’t have to say or do anything, they themselves would hike their skirts up more than was necessary to dance the lambada. Back then he’d acquired the habit of rolling up his sleeves, even if he was in short sleeves, he’d push them up anyway — so the anchor was visible — and now, as he went over to the large woman, he rolled up the hairs on his left arm, since he was in a tank top and had nothing else to roll up. “Sometimes I’ve got a mind to strip naked in the afternoons when the sun comes blasting in here,” he would say to his boss, but she only giggled — “you’re so funny” — and never thought to buy an air conditioner.

READ MORE by ordering Absinthe 17.

Learn more about Yanitsa Radeva and Bulgarian literature at the Contemporary Bulgarian Writers site.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Absinthe 17 Preview: Vladimir Zarev

This is the 13th in a series of posts previewing the new issue of Absinthe, our 17th, focused on Bulgaria. In this post we present an excerpt from a novel by Vladimir Zarev.

from Worlds, translated by Zlatko Anguelov and Elizabeth Frank

Diana entered the hotel lobby at three minutes to nine exactly. She wore her long fur coat and usual tailored suit; always elegance itself and so obsessively different from his wife, she nevertheless once again reminded him of Doris. With her head proudly erect, she advanced toward him, and Samuel suddenly realized that he could no longer regard her simply as an interesting and gorgeous woman. He’d had the misfortune of reading her manuscript, which had not only had a depressing effect on him but had in all likelihood alienated him from her. But now Diana seemed to be a different person. More remote. Elusive. Beyond his yearning for them to be together.

“I didn’t bring your folder, Ms. Popova, because I don’t know where we’re going.”

“It doesn’t matter,” she said with a smile.

“But I think I understood why you needed the books by Jung.”

“Please, let’s not talk about it,” she said, cutting him off tactfully. “Outside the sun is shining. It’s a wonderful day.”

“We’re not going to talk about it … and the day with you is going to be really wonderful.”

Two husky guys with buzz cuts burst into the lobby in black outfits, with black T-shirts beneath their jackets, black sunglasses, gold chains flowing down their chests. They were noisy and as if faceless, brazen no doubt like their master — for it seemed unlikely that behind such an unabashed display of freedom there stood no master; handguns swung under their jackets. The men showed Diana and Samuel to a new Mercedes, also black, and polished like a cavalryman’s boot. On the seat next to the driver a Kalashnikov had been propped up; its cartridge clip shone with grease. They drove out of town, took off on a deserted highway, then began moving uphill.

“Where are we going?” asked Samuel.

“Top secret,” answered the shorter of the men, stroking his bristling head, and shifting the automatic rifle to his other side.

“Is smoking allowed?”

“Everything is allowed,” he replied, grinning mischievously. His teeth were horse-like — yellow and big.

READ MORE by ordering Absinthe 17.

Learn more about Vladimir Zarev and Bulgarian literature at the Contemporary Bulgarian Writers site.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Absinthe 17 Preview: Maria Doneva

This is the 13th in a series of posts previewing the new issue of Absinthe, our 17th, focused on Bulgaria. In this post we present a poem by Maria Doneva.

It’s so easy to love a stranger . . .

It’s so easy to love a stranger.
Who hasn’t dreamed of our shores.
We give him parrots,
Gold and flowers.
We learn his language.
To begin with parts of body.
Then we are talking.
And adopt with rapture
The new religion.
And then?
Old deities
Disturb our sleep.
Upon variable clouds,
Upon tame animals,
Upon rainy afternoons
The time is visible.
The boat that brought him
Is already repaired and waits.
O my promised land,
Let someone else inhabit you.

Translated by Lyudmil Lyutskanov

READ MORE by ordering Absinthe 17.

(c) Stanimir Vrachev
Learn more about Maria Doneva and Bulgarian literature at the Contemporary Bulgarian Writers site.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Absinthe 17 Preview: Vladislav Todorov

This is the twelfth in a series of posts that will preview the upcoming issue of Absinthe, our 17th, focused on Bulgaria. In this post we present an excerpt from a novel by Vladislav Todorov.

from Zincograph


A sense of profuse powdering, a funky smell of powder, cotton ball rubbing powder into oily pores, cheeks, temples, nose, chin, nostrils . . . His face lost its greasy luster and became a breathing fresco.

A sudden thought made him smile, but on the inside, with the back of his face lest the powder should spill — the thought of how Marie Antoinette’s profusely powdered face rolled at the executioner’s feet.

“You’ve got perfect skin.” A coquettish female voice brought him back within the mirrored confines of the makeup room, “oily and elastic.”

“Skin,” he thought, “that’s what’s left of me.”

The powdered man glanced through the door crack of the makeup room into the studio of the popular television show “Scaffold.” The audience had taken their seats and now observed how the stage workers tested the joints of the Scaffold — a light fiberglass construction, a postmodern installation of sorts.

The former diva Vera Pavlov was the talk-show host. She had been reassigned to the National Television owing to advanced-stage bilateral flat feet. This explained her army shoes and the haircut that matched the shoes. Her eyes — wet and loving — revealed her giving nature and constant readiness to breastfeed the starving populace. Vera had characteristically high cheekbones, plump lips, and a vibrant windpipe that could project her voice in the most acoustic ways. Her bust, secured in a tight corset, looked like a pair of river stones mounted on her otherwise fragile frame. A silver-clad ruby teardrop lodged peacefully in its massive groove. The hostess, frugally beautified, had the manners of a bashful yet sexually proficient headmistress. Two glands pulsated on her snow-white neck. Her entire organism was growing visibly agitated.

READ MORE by ordering Absinthe 17.

Learn more about Vladislav Todorov and Bulgarian literature at the Contemporary Bulgarian Writers site.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Absinthe 17 Preview: Zdravka Evtimova

This is the eleventh in a series of posts that will preview the upcoming issue of Absinthe, our 17th, focused on Bulgaria. In this post we present an excerpt from a short story by Zdravka Evtimova.

From Kuncho

"Don’t waste time. Come to my place quickly! I’ll treat you to a piece of Kuncho as soon as you arrive,” my friend Dara said to me on my mobile. I listened, hesitating. Yesterday, my husband bought a big knife and said he’d use it to slash my throat. I wasn’t too impressed to be honest with you. Let me first explain the way the whole picture looked.

Kuncho was a 21-year-old donkey whose proud proprietor was Dara’s father, Uncle Pesho. The man prepared his cart, then took Kuncho and went to steal tiles, scrap iron, sawdust, plus everything else one could lay his hands on in these parts. I was one of the few who knew the truth about the old donkey and I didn’t take pride in that knowledge. To cut a long story short, it was Uncle Pesho himself who turned Kuncho into minced meat and subsequently into sausages. I was well informed about the substantial role these sausages played in our small town.

Uncle Pesho was stealing scrap iron when Kuncho fell on his belly and started hiccuping and sighing. Then suddenly the animal’s back stopped twitching.

“Why are you doing that to me, man?” Uncle Pesho said to his beast. “Who shall I steal with now? My wife is an old rail like the rusty ones at the railway station. My daughter (he meant Dara, of course), will never get married because no one wants her. The two geese are both so lazy they’d rather kick the bucket than do a stroke of work. I am old and worn out like your horseshoes, Kuncho, but I go filching. Can’t I get a drink like an honest man instead? And what can I steal, my friend? Everything worth stealing has already been stolen. I go out thieving and who do you think I meet? I meet my competitors. They’ve gone out to pilfer something or other, too. So what happens when I see them eye to eye, I ask you? Do we steal the way we should? Not at all! We all sit down and get drunk together. Tell me, Kuncho, didn’t I give you a chunk of my bread all the time? I did! So don’t die, man. Are you leaving me with the slothful female pair, with the old one and the young one? Are you? You can’t die now!”

READ MORE by ordering Absinthe 17.

Learn more about Zdravka Evtimova and Bulgarian literature at the Contemporary Bulgarian Writers site.
We're late congratulating Bill Johnston on winning the Best Translated Book Award for Wieslaw Mysliwski's Stone Upon Stone. Congrats Bill!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Absinthe 17 Preview: Emiliya Dvoryanova

(c) Lilyana Dvoryanova

This is the tenth in a series of posts that will preview the upcoming issue of Absinthe, our 17th, focused on Bulgaria. In this post we present an excerpt from a novel by Emiliya Dvoryanova.

From Passion, or the Death of Alice, translated by Lubomir Terziev

Never speak ill of the dead — my grandmother used to say, and so it has been accepted indeed; in the past they’d spit right into the mouth of anyone who would speak ill of a dead man so that when they swallow they’d take back their words into their throat.

But now I’m a witness in this case and you’re telling me that as my duty I must speak the truth, but the thing is I know such nasty stuff about the young lady that it makes my hair stand on end and I get them stomach cramps, God bless me, but this being my duty and being a citizen, despite the pangs and creepy though it all is, I’ll be telling you what you want me to — from the beginning, and about the end, nor will I spare the disgraceful details, though I’m filled with shame, but then again, I’m curious enough to know more than I need to know — one finds out about all kinds of human stuff, unwittingly, and sometimes it’s all too human for you to want to find out, because there’s no bounds to oddities and when one of them crops up, you pull yourself to the next, and you produce such a tangle that there’s no telling where it will all end. Well, I might have seen many an awful thing, but never did I predict such an end, and that morning, God bless me, I was summoning up some thoughts about the young lady while I was trying to unlock the gate, which had begun to stick months before, so every morning I had to shove in the key and turn it this way and that way, and at that very moment I thought I’d better not get in at all, it was a peculiar day, after all, a Holy Good Friday, and on days like that one must tune oneself in for God rather than be incited to evil thoughts and fickle feelings at the expense of the soul, and if I were to be strict and Orthodox by the canon, I shouldn’t have worked that day at all, telling the young lady as an excuse that I won’t do no cleaning until she has this rusty piece of iron oiled – I’d told her a hundred times and she would just laugh and then she goes like, well, yes, she’ll ask someone to pour some oil on it.

READ MORE by ordering Absinthe 17.

Learn more about Emiliya Dvoryanova and Bulgarian literature at the Contemporary Bulgarian Writers site.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Absinthe 17 Preview: Stefan Ivanov

This is the ninth in a series of posts that will preview the upcoming issue of Absinthe, our 17th, focused on Bulgaria. In this post we present a poem by Stefan Ivanov.

a list for my father

the sound of cracking hazelnuts and walnuts
of pounding the meat that will become a steak
the firm manly handshake
playing tennis or football and skiing
the contemplative humming and calm whistling
the indifferent talk of money
the honesty with people
the desire to help whenever possible
the ease with which he does things both simple and complex
the childish wonder in his eyes when he is surprised
the loud laughter the hard sneeze
the silence in which he reads in bed
and it pains me to see him grow old
grow closer
to the black and white window with three names dates and a picture
to the silence of statues sitting on a bench
the day when I will be in his place

Translated by Maria P. Vassileva

READ MORE by ordering Absinthe 17.
(c) Yana Lozeva

Learn more about Bulgarian literature at the Contemporary Bulgarian Writers site.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Absinthe 17 Preview: Krassimir Damianov

(c) Sasha Damianova

This is the eighth in a series of posts that will preview the upcoming issue of Absinthe, our 17th, focused on Bulgaria. In this post we present an excerpt from a novel by Krassimir Damianov.

from Diary of a Butterfly, translated by Angela Rodel


For a long time I couldn’t find myself a girl after you. I kept looking for your type, your height, your elegance, your screams, your eyes, your voice . . . My eyes often played tricks on me, your slender silhouette would suddenly appear at the end of the street, in the elevator at a store, in the flickering of the streetcar or on the steps in front of the university. I mistook the Vietnamese girls for you — there were lots of them in Sofia at the time — because of your petite figure or I would simply imagine that it could be you with your slanted eyes. Even though you didn’t fit with the cold or the slushy snow on those frosty mornings. Once, as I rode home on trolleybus number two, slightly tipsy, at around eleven o’clock at night, I pressed up against a woman in front of me. Unconsciously at first, there were lots of people on the bus, but then — I sensed her like an animal and felt that she sensed me, too — completely deliberately, with the desperation of a condemned man! Because it was you, your scent of seaweed, your warmth, your body . . . I missed my stop, one, two, and three more. . . Finally we ended up alone in the empty trolley, stuck together like Siamese twins, skin prickling, without speaking, without thinking. As I got off the bus behind you I saw that you had a limp, a heavy limp. . .You stopped, turned around, looked at me with contempt, noticed my shock, and continued wobbling your way along the dark path between the apartment blocks in the unfamiliar neighborhood.  READ MORE by ordering Absinthe 17.

Learn more about Krassimir Damianov and Bulgarian literature at the Contemporary Bulgarian Writers site.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Absinthe 17 Preview: Theodora Dimova

This is the seventh in a series of posts that will preview the upcoming issue of Absinthe, our 17th, focused on Bulgaria. In this post we present an excerpt from a novel by Theodora Dimova.

From Liya, translated by Francine Giguere

It’s a disgrace! This country is an absolute disgrace! A fresh perversion — made in Bulgaria! A complete depravity of the mind! Yet another humiliation of artists in Bulgaria! Do you understand what that means! Do you understand what they want to force me to do! Intellectual, artist, man of letters — these are nothing but dirty words in Bulgaria! And because some of us still manage to preserve our integrity and not wade up to our necks in excrement, well, they’ve found another way to deal with us: we’ll carve them with a fine chisel, they think, they’re made of thin ice, the better to get at them perfidiously, in depth and from behind! You bastards! You bastards! You bloody bastards! You’ve destroyed us! You want to wipe us out completely, is that it!? You want to crush us?  READ MORE by ordering Absinthe 17.

Learn more about Theodora Dimova and Bulgarian literature at the Contemporary Bulgarian Writers site.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Absinthe 17 Preview: Kristin Dimitrova

(c) Mira Dimova
This is the sixth in a series of posts that will preview the upcoming issue of Absinthe, our 17th, focused on Bulgaria. In this post we present an excerpt from a novel by Kristin Dimitrova.

From Sabazius

I didn’t expect to see him again. I thought he was dead but perhaps that suited me better. The truth is I went to him myself.

He had chosen an old house in downtown Sofia for an office. As I walked to the place and counted the numbers, I already knew which house that might be. When I was a boy, I used to pass by it regularly on my way to my music classes. An old woman with long fingernails was continually standing at the ground-floor window, keeping record of those who crossed the barrier of her gaze. Her presence was so inevitable that for me the house, the woman and the stench that radiated from her window melted in a trinity of body, spirit and soul. In the hot summer days the smell of hair, unwashed for years, and wetted clothes, unchanged since the last time a caring neighbour donated her old rags, mixed with the deep odour of cellar coming from inside the rotten walls. On seeing me, she would catch me with the hooks of her eyes and start jabbering about receptions with ambassadors and stuff like that. She was eager to tell everybody the stories of her wild past and croon moldy tunes. No one really stopped to listen, except maybe me. She somehow paralyzed me. The house was overgrown with ivy, and if at places the falling plaster wasn’t visible, that was because the green leaves crept like a skin disease all over the walls and hung in garlands down the façade. Around the old lady’s window they wound a sort of a lifelong wreath.

The violin lessons lasted until my high-school graduation, so I witnessed the slow disintegration of the old woman. Come to think of it now, I wasn’t quite sure of her age. White locks of hair dangled over her tight skin and everything blended in the common grey background of filth. Her stories gradually fell into pieces which got jumbled up, forming strange new combinations, like centaurs, mermaids or fauns.  READ MORE by ordering Absinthe 17.

Learn more about Kristin Dimitrova and Bulgarian literature at the Contemporary Bulgarian Writers site.