bulgarian istoria


In his rhapsodic 1840 lecture on Dante and Shakespeare, “The Hero as Poet,” Thomas Carlyle wrote: “Yes, truly, it is a great thing for a Nation that it get an articulate voice; that it produce a man who will speak forth melodiously what the heart of it means!” The poet alone (“King Shakespeare”) rather than brute military or political authority, he insisted, had the metaphoric power to hold together the British Empire. Russia, whose czar ruled over great tracts of land, offered nothing but “dumb greatness.”

Carlyle proved wrong about Russia, but he was right about literature. Growing up in Bulgaria in the 1990s, soon after the Soviet government had loosened its hold and the West had offered its hand, I cheerfully fell under the influence of Russian and English writers. The only time Bulgarian literature held me in its grip was when it put me to sleep. I simply could not hear an “articulate voice,” much as I strained to; nobody managed to express “what the heart of it means.” While high school teachers tried to seduce me, day after day, with the beauties of our native tradition, I furtively held a volume of Keats under my desk. In a small Balkan country, where lack of interest in propagating one’s cultural heritage could be interpreted as a desecration of the national Priapus, that was a mortal sin.

more from Boston Review here.