Elizabeth Kostova Foundation http://www.vagabond.bg/ en THE EXAM, an excerpt from a short story http://www.vagabond.bg/exam-excerpt-short-story-3385 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">THE EXAM, an excerpt from a short story</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Daniela Kuzmanova</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 04/27/2022 - 11:51</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3 lang="en-SG" xml:lang="en-SG">This text was created during the online creative writing workshop Character + Setting lead by Josip Novakovic and organised by the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation on 8-14 November 2021</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p lang="en-SG" xml:lang="en-SG"><strong>Wednesday morning</strong></p> <p lang="en-SG" xml:lang="en-SG">It was a beautiful morning in the spring. The sun was shining brightly, the birds were chirping, and the treetops were green. Dr. Andrey Kehayov, Andrew – as his friends called him breathed in the fresh air while walking briskly to the medical school and smiling at the people he met on his way. There were small gardens in front of many of the houses in the neighborhood. The tulips and daffodils in them were blooming for the delight of the passers-by. Andrew walked briskly, reflecting on how wonderful life was. He had started working at Fresh Dental Clinic right after his graduation — the dream of every young dentist. He had been invited by Dr. Anderson himself who was the head of the clinic, and Frida's father. Dr. Anderson had hired both Andrew and Bobby – the best students in Frida's dental class. And now the three of them with Frida worked in adjoining offices and every day had lunch together. Ah, Frida! At the thought of the blonde and charming Frieda with the most enticing smile in the world, Andrew's heart jumped in his chest! He had liked her the minute he spotted her at the lectures among the many other dental students. But he had never dared to tell her about his feelings. Andrew secretly suspected that she liked him too because she used every opportunity for them to be together. She was showing interest in his opinion; she laughed at his jokes and tenderly glanced at him with her violet-blue eyes. The time has come – only to pass this exam today, and he will confess his love for her! He was sure that he would brilliantly perform the final part of the exam. Then his dream of becoming an orthodontist would come true. Monday morning, he had accurately taken the patient's imprint and the dental lab had already made the removable appliance corresponding to it. He would probably need to make a few minor adjustments to fit the plate to the patient. And then to explain to the exam board what orthodontic treatment he envisions. This part of the exam was the easiest – especially compared to the hard theory test the previous week. Too bad that Bobby failed on it! But c'est la vie. Several candidates applied for just one opened orthodontist position, and the best would win! And who was the best? Andrew.</p> <p lang="en-SG" xml:lang="en-SG">Andrew took the stairs two at a time and quickly reached the facade of the massive medical school building. He carefully opened the heavy front door and waved to the porter standing at the front desk to the left of the staircase. The young man went up to the second floor. He walked down the long gloomy corridor and greeted the other four applicants already waiting in front of the exam hall. He glanced at his watch – two more minutes until the beginning of the exam.</p> <p lang="en-SG" xml:lang="en-SG">At 10 am sharp, the door opened, and Professor Carter, the chairman of the examination board, invited the candidates into the hall. The patients were already seated in the dental chairs.</p> <p lang="en-SG" xml:lang="en-SG">After disinfecting their hands and putting on protective clothing, the five young medics approached their patients. A nurse with a tray walked to each of them. Each took the numbered box with the teeth imprint of his patient and the corresponding gypsum model and plates made in the dental lab.</p> <p lang="en-SG" xml:lang="en-SG">Andrew smiled at the patient standing in front of him. He was a boy of about 13 years old, with quite crooked teeth and a deep bite not corrected earlier because his family had no financial means to do so. Now his parents had brought him here because the patients of the dental students received free treatment.</p> <p lang="en-SG" xml:lang="en-SG">Andrew took the plate out of the box, disinfected it, and carefully placed it on the patient's teeth. But no matter how hard he tried, it did not work out. If he adjusted the plate on one side, it climbed on the other. Andrew took out the appliance and began to examine it. The acrylic base seemed to be narrower than the patient's bite. Andrew ground some of the plastic. But no matter how hard he tried, he could not adjust the plate to the boy's teeth. Andrew put it in the model – it fit perfectly. He looked at the imprint he had made the previous day. Yes, it was this imprint, but somehow different. He was trying to figure out exactly what was the root of the problem. The imprint seemed shrunk, although there was no explanation for how it happened.</p> <p lang="en-SG" xml:lang="en-SG">Sweat broke out on his forehead. He pulled out a towel to soak it up and felt the veins in his temples throb in a furious rhythm. Andrew had to concentrate; he had almost reached the final; he had to overcome this last obstacle. He made a second attempt, but the plates did not fit again.</p> <p lang="en-SG" xml:lang="en-SG">"Well, Dr. Kehayov, as far as I can see, we have a problem here," he heard professor Carter's voice behind him.</p> <p lang="en-SG" xml:lang="en-SG">"I'm sorry, Professor Carter, but I think something happened to this plate. It is not the same as I left it yesterday," Andrew desperately sighed.</p> <p lang="en-SG" xml:lang="en-SG">"And what do you think happened to it, Dr. Kehayov, and where?" continued Professor Carter sarcastically. "In this examination hall or at the lab, and only to your plate? The rest are fine. Look at the other applicants – no one complains. It seems that your molding process was not correct from the very beginning. You are good at theory. However, you lack practical skills. You can use your time to work hard and apply again next year, Dr. Kehayov."</p> <p lang="en-SG" xml:lang="en-SG">Andrew turned pale; his pupils dilated. He barely managed to remove the protective clothing he was working with, thanked the jury, and left the hall. Everything swam before his eyes; a storm raged in his soul. He spotted a bench at the end of the corridor, sat on it, and collapsed. He rested his elbows on his knees and covered his eyes with his palms. His head was echoing with a single question – what went wrong at the end?</p> <p lang="en-SG" xml:lang="en-SG"><em>To be continued</em></p> <p lang="en-SG" xml:lang="en-SG"><strong>Daniela Kuzmanova</strong> lives in Sofia and works at the Program Content Department of Bulgarian National Television. She got a master’s degree in English from Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English (USA) in 2016. She enjoys writing children's books and plays as well as fiction and non-fiction short stories. In 2014, her haibun Independent Dog was one of the awarded works in the Third Genjuan International Haibun Contest in Japan and published in Genjuan Haibun Contest: Decorated Works 2012-2014. In 2017, her play Christmas Story with Wally and Polly was nominated in the Balkan Playwright Contest Children Drama.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div class="uk-panel"><img class="uk-align-left uk-margin-remove-adjacent" alt="EK_Logo.jpg" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V135-136/EK_Logo.jpg" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION" width="50%" /> THE <a href="http://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</a> and VAGABOND, Bulgaria's English Monthly, cooperate in order to enrich the English language with translations of contemporary Bulgarian writers. Every year we give you the chance to read the work of a dozen young and sometimes not-so-young Bulgarian writers that the EKF considers original, refreshing and valuable. Some of them have been translated in English for the first time. The EKF has decided to make the selection of authors' work and to ensure they get first-class English translation, and we at VAGABOND are only too happy to get them published in a quality magazine. Enjoy our fiction pages.</div> </div> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-187" hreflang="en">Issue 187</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/culture/fiction" hreflang="en">FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3385&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="9XsZixdA2KbgERkMl_1h_LHBNM_jigURa6_gYOeHukY"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 27 Apr 2022 08:51:03 +0000 DimanaT 3385 at http://www.vagabond.bg http://www.vagabond.bg/exam-excerpt-short-story-3385#comments BEAR BOY http://www.vagabond.bg/bear-boy-3115 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">BEAR BOY</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Aleksandra Tedepdelenova McCrone</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Sat, 07/31/2021 - 17:34</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>The text was workshopped during Travis Holland's workshop <em>What You Know: Writing Our Way Into the World</em></h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>"Can I get you anything else, Bear Boy?" inquired the waiter of the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall café with an ill-contained smirk. </p> <p>Bear Boy, a regular at the establishment, shook his head absentmindedly and continued to stare at his lonely cup of espresso. The waiter shrugged and resumed his place on the chair behind the bar. At two thirty in the afternoon, Bear Boy was his only customer. He struggled to understand young and able-bodied people like Bear Boy, who stayed idle during the work day. Though rather short and a bit too slender, Bear boy was almost handsome with his reddish hair and freckled baby nose. Today's outfit consisting of smart black pants and a white polo shirt, paired with his gelled hair smoothed to the left side, gave him a relatively important look. It was obvious that he was up to one of his usual endeavors, chasing the wind. The bouquet of fresh daffodils rested on the table next to his coffee cup was another proof of that. In his early twenties, Bear Boy still lived with his parents, plenty decent people. His father owned the pet store two blocks down the street and his mother was a nurse downtown. They had even given him a Honda to drive around, until he crashed it one night under odd circumstances. The waiter had gotten an earful about the occasion throughout most of the following week. If his own children turned out anything like that, he was convinced he would throw them out of the house and would do so for their own good. But he had to accept that not all parents had the same values.</p> <p>As soon as the waiter took a seat, the door flew open and another neighborhood bachelor, Petey, walked in. His posture was slightly hunched, as usual, and he sported the stained overalls of a car mechanic. Petey occasionally ended up spending his afternoons at the café with Bear Boy, but at the moment he was gainfully employed. He nodded at the waiter and made a beeline for Bear Boy. </p> <p>"You still here? She ain't coming, bro. Let's go now."</p> <p>Bear Boy didn't move a muscle.</p> <p>"I told you that one won't work, didn't I? Too stuck-up."</p> <p>Bear Boy cringed his tiny nose, but remained silent.</p> <p>"Have you swallowed your tongue, man?" Petey shook Bear Boy's shoulders and finally got a reaction.</p> <p>"Quit that! You're gonna break my bones, Petey!"</p> <p>"Finally! I feared you've gone mute. Now, pick up your stuff and let's keep movin'!" Then Petey's eyes suddenly fell on the bouquet. "You won't be needing those." </p> <p>Petey snatched the flowers and attempted to dispose of them in the nearby trash can, but Bear Boy leaped up and grabbed them out of his hands before he could complete this act. </p> <p>"What are you doing? Do you know how much this bunch costs?" he hissed.</p> <p>"I know no such thing. But knowing you, I doubt it you paid a dime for it."</p> <p>Solemnly, Bear Boy acknowledged: "That's right. I didn't."</p> <p>"Now, let's skip this place. Remember, you never wait for a woman more than five minutes. Petey's law. Besides, the old man over there is staring at us." Petey lowered his voice, but the waiter still heard him, which caused the man to commence zealously wiping at a dusty wine class with a cloth napkin. He had to admit that watching the scenes his customers occasionally bestowed upon him was one of the few perks of this job. </p> <p>"You'll find another sugar mamma, be sure of it. She's not the only one. Besides, the loss is entirely hers. Just look at you." Petey said, unconvincingly. </p> <p>"When is life gonna smile at me, Petey? When am I gonna find my perfect girl?"</p> <p>"One with lots of cash that's also gonna fall for you ain't so easy to find." Petey shook with laughter. </p> <p>"Quit that! Wouldn't you wanna be married into money, Petey?"</p> <p>"I say, that won't be too bad. But I doubt such a thing is gonna happen to someone ordinary like me," concluded Petey, thoughtfully.</p> <p>"Well, you work hard at things and wait, till they happen. Someday they will, if you set your mind on them."</p> <p>"What about that girl, what was her name? The granddaughter of the old librarian lady?" suddenly remembered Petey. "She any good? Her old man is loaded."</p> <p>"Who? Missy? Nah, she is too young. I don't wanna have to deal with the cops again," cut him off Bear Boy.</p> <p>"Garbage. She goes to school with my cousin. That means she should be eighteen around this year. So, what do you say?"</p> <p>"Fine. If you say so, let's do it," concluded Bear Boy and grabbed the flowers that were once again resting at the table. "Where did she live, again?"</p> <p>Bear Boy and Petey headed towards the door.</p> <p>"Wait, you haven't paid for the espresso!" the waiter shouted after them.</p> <p>"Oh, my bad. Can you put that on my tab?" Bear Boy requested, his smile deploying all of his charm.</p> <p>"You know I can't do this anymore, Bear Boy. The Boss won't allow it."</p> <p>"Can you put it on my old people's tab, then?"</p> <p>"Your parents haven't gotten a tab here, Bear Boy."</p> <p>"Fine. Petey, do you have a few dollars? I'll pay you back." Bear Boy's face stretched in a silly grimace. "Pinky promise."</p> <p>Petey reluctantly pulled out a few dollar bills from the front pocket of his overalls and threw them on the counter. </p> <p><strong>Aleksandra Tepedelenova McCrone is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, US, and the The University of National and World Economy in Sofia, Bulgaria. She writes fiction and poetry and has published several short stories. Aleksandra resides with her family in California, where she splits her time between working at a regional government agency and volunteering to raise awareness of pediatric cancer issues.</strong></p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div class="uk-panel"><img class="uk-align-left uk-margin-remove-adjacent" alt="EK_Logo.jpg" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V135-136/EK_Logo.jpg" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION" width="50%" /> THE <a href="http://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</a> and VAGABOND, Bulgaria's English Monthly, cooperate in order to enrich the English language with translations of contemporary Bulgarian writers. Every year we give you the chance to read the work of a dozen young and sometimes not-so-young Bulgarian writers that the EKF considers original, refreshing and valuable. Some of them have been translated in English for the first time. The EKF has decided to make the selection of authors' work and to ensure they get first-class English translation, and we at VAGABOND are only too happy to get them published in a quality magazine. Enjoy our fiction pages.</div> </div> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-178" hreflang="en">Issue 178</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/culture/fiction" hreflang="en">FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3115&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="zYv9fJJ_0-GY3-0lEm2iA6mtYCw9nRSAr6nulI_q0m0"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Sat, 31 Jul 2021 14:34:33 +0000 DimanaT 3115 at http://www.vagabond.bg http://www.vagabond.bg/bear-boy-3115#comments REGIME CHANGE, An excerpt http://www.vagabond.bg/regime-change-excerpt-3053 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">REGIME CHANGE, An excerpt</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Ani Kodjabasheva</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Mon, 05/31/2021 - 10:41</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>This text has been workshopped during Travis Holland's What You Know: Writing Our Way Into the World course, organized by the virtual Writing Center of Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>The white Renault parked in front of the House of the Communist Party. The chauffeur rolled down the window to have a smoke. Dimcho took a few moments sitting quietly in the back seat.</p> <p>Today, Dimcho was on his way to see Tsanov, his boss, at Tsanov's expansive office in the House of the Communist Party. Tsanov had a new assignment for Dimcho – something about finding contacts in the northeast to choose a location for an agrochemical factory. Tsanov had been the Minister of Agriculture back in the 1960s, and though he moved up to the Politburo, he still appreciated fields and tractors. Dimcho found it unsightly but, of course, was very discreet about it.</p> <p>It was a bothersome assignment, but not a difficult one. Dimcho still remembered everything about the flat wheat country where he came from. He could easily say who was who among the stingy, sulking people of that region.</p> <p>Dimcho had long ago left the sorry small town he was born in. Now, he was Comrade Dimchev, member of the Communist Party and first-hand man to Tsanov, one of the Politburo secretaries. The secretary's secretary. How far he'd come.</p> <p>Dimcho adjusted his horn-rimmed spectacles and smoothed his thin pomaded hair. He pulled out a pocket mirror to make sure his shirt collar and tie were in order. He walked up the front steps and through the heavy metal doors of the House of the Party. A guard nodded and escorted him to the elevator.</p> <p>On the second floor, someone stepped out and Dimcho got a glimpse of Gavazov, the Bulgartabak director, walking down the hallway. He's off to an early start today, Dimcho thought. An enterprising man, and good for him. He must be visiting Politburo Secretary Filipov. Too bad Gavazov didn't know that the funds for his growers were slashed – he'd be lucky if he got half of the generous gifts he enjoyed last year. Computational machines were the order of the day now. After the successes of the Sofia electronics factories, Zhivkov, the country's leader, was investing in a passion project – a new plant in his hometown of Pravets. It would make small computational terminals to compete with the Americans.</p> <p>The Party men did not care for computers – unlike tobacco, they were at once complicated and boring. But, of course, everyone liked the chance to boast to everyone from the Yugoslavs to the Koreans.</p> <p>Good things were ahead – if only Gavazov lifted his head up from his primitive, small-scale tobacco growing in those godforsaken villages. Dimcho smiled a tight-lipped smile. But he quickly restored his clean-shaven face to its usual placid, pleasant demeanor. Of course, things with Gavazov could sweeten at any moment. The Communist way was prosperity for all.</p> <p>The chromed doors of the elevator slid apart and Dimcho got off on his floor.</p> <p>"Tsanov is waiting for you," said the receptionist presiding over the north wing of the sixth floor of the House of the Bulgarian Communist Party. She was fixing her permed curls in a mirror but looked aside for a moment to give Dimcho an approving look. "Is it still cold out? That wool coat really looks good on you, Comrade."</p> <p>"Sonya, you are too kind," Dimcho said. "Tsanov is already in, you say?"</p> <p>"Yeah, he's been busy for an hour already – calls with Moscow. Something about economic reports. You know how the Russians are, very stern, but to be honest with you, it sounds good. That's your morning briefing, now, Comrade Dimchev," Sonya smiled. She went back to sorting typewritten memos spread out over an open issue of <em>Today's Woman</em> magazine.</p> <p>"Dimchev, come in," said Tsanov with raised, open arms. He was sitting cross-legged in a tubular steel chair, his shirt rumpled, the tip of his heavy boot shaking back and forth. After all those years in the halls of Party power, Tsanov still wore the same standard-issue workingman's shoes, as if at any moment he may need to step into the fields to inspect the grain harvest. Papers were scattered on a coffee table in front of him. Tsanov held up a loose sheet with handwritten notes and waved it at Dimcho.</p> <p>"Look here, now. The Politburo are in on the electronics business. Will consider approving three additional plants, they said. Dimchev, Communism is entering the digital era! But please, sit down, my boy."</p> <p>"This is excellent news, Comrade Tsanov." Dimcho flicked aside his coattails and sat on the uncomfortable tubular-steel chair across from his mentor.</p> <p>"I didn't even offer you a treat. See here. Smoked Spanish ham, my boy. Gavazov, you know him, the tobacco guy, routed this somehow through Berlin. Turns out those fascists make excellent ham! I'd offer you a whisky with it, but I know your tastes, it's still too early for you. Consider yourself invited later."</p> <p>"Thank you, Comrade Tsanov. Now, I hear from Sonya that you had a phone call with Moscow this morning?"</p> <p>"Ah yes, a sharp ear, that one. You look at her – she's leafing through a magazine. But all the while, she's listening. Good thing I hired her. But yes, the Russians." Tsanov stroked the stubble on his chin as he spoke. "Well – things are sounding good, Dimcho. The econ committee are not too worried about the debt, it turns out. They want to keep investing in productive sectors of the economy. The Russians are smart men – you don't make money from shrinking the economy. And I completely agree. We need to keep building! We have so much potential. Fertile lands. Capable engineers. A strong base of industrial facilities across the country. How much we've built in four decades of Communism. And how much more there is to come!"</p> <p>Tsanov had evidently had a whisky with his jamón already. It was hard not to catch some of his elation. Yes – there was work to do. None of this was guaranteed, and there was plenty that could go wrong. But it's not like the West didn't go through economic downturns, either. If they played their cards right, this small country could even surpass the USSR in some ways… The Soviet political machine was just too old, too attached to the past. All their "perestroika" – so many nice words. But Bulgaria – a state where everyone more or less knew each other… Here, if you had an idea, you could always find a way.</p> <p>"I trust your vision, Comrade Tsanov," Dimcho said. "I think we can do it."</p> <p>"Yes, how right you are, my dear boy. It is a vision, and we will work for it. So now, as you know, I have a task for you."</p> <p>"Yes, please, I'm here to learn the details so I can set out right away."</p> <p>"Dimcho, you are always a step ahead. How right I was to hire you all those years back." Tsanov smiled. "Here is what we will do. As you know, we are developing new industries here in Bulgaria. Socialism is progressing and we are inventing more ways to improve the life of the workers. We are going to transform your region, Dimcho, the Deli Orman. It is beautiful, prosperous country – your people make the wheat and the bread that we eat. But they have even more potential. We need to combine agriculture with modern production. So I have a project... We'll start with an experimental pharma plant in the town of Isperih, and you will help us grow from there."</p> <p>"In Isperih?" Dimcho repeated. He sat up as far as the unstable chair would allow him. He was lost for words for a moment. But he calmed his breathing and returned his expression to one of agreeable curiosity.</p> <p>Tsanov looked Dimcho in the eyes. "I know you would rather not be tied up with your hometown, Dimcho. You can be sure I am aware of this and am not meaning to set you up for a return to the pastoral countryside. We have to keep the bigger plan in mind, my boy. This is a temporary task that will put your brilliant mind to the service of the country. You may not like it there. I understand. What can I say – our provincial folk are still backward and living in ignorance. You can help them move forward. One day, they may put your monument in the town square. Zhivkov has his factory in his hometown of Pravets, and you'll have yours in Isperih!"</p> <p>Tsanov put both his feet on the floor and leaned forward. "But let's speak concretely. You'll only need to go once a week, at most. And only in the beginning. You will keep an eye on factory construction. After that, you will scout locations for a few more. You will find the hardest-working collectives and the most capable leaders. Together, we will turn the Deli Orman into a hub for sophisticated production."</p> <p>"It is a great idea, Comrade Tsanov," Dimcho said, standing still and composed in his chair, even though the taut piece of cloth stretched between metal tubes would let him neither sit up, nor lean back. "Of course, I am happy to help. You know the countryside is not my personal favorite, but we need to serve Party and country. Please, do tell me more about the project. So you have plans for the pharmaceutical industry?"</p> <p>"Oh, my boy, I didn't even tell you about that. Yes, well, pharma – but not only. Our chemists will bring together the new materials industry and pharmaceuticals. In this plant in Isperih, we'll be betting on plastics. Syringes, pill bottles… You know these new plastics, clear, bright, hygienic. They look like glass, but are almost weightless – the wonders of modern science! We will create a combined plant – pharma and plastics. And then, we will bring in electronics. This will be a smart factory. Button-operated production lines! Isperih is going straight into the future. We will build a beautiful factory, several blocks spread out." Tsanov waved his hands about. "I've spoken with architects and it will be a marvelous plan. We will need lots of flat open space, so Isperih is perfect. It will be on the plane, between the agricultural fields and the forest – surely you know the spot."</p> <p>Dimcho smiled graciously to mask the fact that the blood had drained from his face. He breathed and stilled his heart. Of course he knew the place. In his mind, he saw Tsanov's new factory in the fields behind his father's house. He willfully directed his attention to the rest of the information Tsanov shared. Computers. Engineers. After all, it would be a perfect occasion to get a foothold in those circles. If these wondrous new machines had to be in Isperih, then so be it. </p> <p><em><strong>Ani Kodjabasheva</strong> lives in Sofia. A newcomer to fiction, she specializes in art writing and regularly contributes features to the US-based magazines </em>Pastel Journal<em>, </em>Watercolor Artist<em> and </em>Artists Magazine<em>. She is part of The Collective Foundation, which creates inclusive public spaces through urban design and community. She holds MAs in art and architectural history from Columbia University and the University of Oxford. She has worked as a teaching assistant at Columbia and has coached students in writing about architecture and the city.</em></p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div class="uk-panel"><img class="uk-align-left uk-margin-remove-adjacent" alt="EK_Logo.jpg" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V135-136/EK_Logo.jpg" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION" width="50%" /> THE <a href="http://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</a> and VAGABOND, Bulgaria's English Monthly, cooperate in order to enrich the English language with translations of contemporary Bulgarian writers. Every year we give you the chance to read the work of a dozen young and sometimes not-so-young Bulgarian writers that the EKF considers original, refreshing and valuable. Some of them have been translated in English for the first time. The EKF has decided to make the selection of authors' work and to ensure they get first-class English translation, and we at VAGABOND are only too happy to get them published in a quality magazine. Enjoy our fiction pages.</div> </div> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-176" hreflang="en">Issue 176</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/culture/fiction" hreflang="en">FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3053&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="MsKlEA8Tw9-7kz4_6_CXVfpz1vjnTWsRj8JWZN0wT1Y"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 31 May 2021 07:41:18 +0000 DimanaT 3053 at http://www.vagabond.bg http://www.vagabond.bg/regime-change-excerpt-3053#comments THE WRITER AS SPY http://www.vagabond.bg/writer-spy-3022 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">THE WRITER AS SPY</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Alek Popov; translated from the Bulgarian by Velina Minkoff</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 04/29/2021 - 16:58</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>An excerpt from The Radical Thinker's Companion, Ciela, 2018. This text was translated during Elizabeth Kostova Foundation's Translation Workshop in March 2021</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>I have a story in which the main character is a voyeur. It is called <em>The Red Room</em>. Every few months this guy rents a new place to stay in search of more and more new scenes for observation. One night, the lens of his powerful telescope falls upon a room flooded with intense red light. It is completely empty, except for the plain wooden chair in the middle. For days, weeks on end, our voyeur observes the room, but no one enters. The chair remains empty and the red light streams relentlessly into the night. Tormented by curiosity, he leaves his comfortable observation post, goes over to the apartment building across from his, and enters the room… Which turns out to be fatal.</p> <p>The voyeur should not push himself into the picture. The task of the writer is the exact opposite – he strives to become part of the landscape, at least for a short time. For him, it is not enough to catch a glimpse of a woman’s bare back as she comes out of the shower. He absolutely must find out a bunch of other things: whether anyone else is in the room, what the two of them are talking about, and maybe even how they feel about each other. What did the woman do before getting in the shower and what will she do after that?… Naturally, these curious details cannot be uncovered by simply peeking behind the curtain. One would have to be inside the room, which is always associated with risks. Entering someone else's room requires solid reasons, and being a writer is definitely not one of them. In such cases, James Bond usually seduces the lady, and all doors automatically open up before him. The writer’s technique is not much different…</p> <p>The affinity between the trade of the writer and that of the spy goes way back. This seems to be best acknowledged in the United Kingdom, but it also applies to other parts of the world. Many writers were spies and many spies took to writing books. Daniel Defoe, Graham Greene, Ian Fleming, the list goes on and on. However, being a spy does not necessarily mean working for some sinister intelligence agency, no matter how prestigious it may seem at first glance. There are private spies, just like there are private detectives. There are also spies who work only for themselves – at least that is what they think. I do not know about the others, but I am precisely that type.</p> <p>What kind of <em>spy</em> do you think you are, the real spies will say, if you don’t communicate with your Center? Who ordered you to collect information? Who do you report to? What is your code name? All reasonable questions. A real spy, however, would never answer such questions, and they know it well. If a spy compromises his cover in public, he ceases to be a spy. The same is true, to a large extent, of the writer. When in "action", he avoids disclosing his real profession. Spies, on the other hand, have this annoying habit of posing as writers when at work. The truth is, however, that this tactic is completely wrong. There is nothing more suspicious than someone investigating channels for illegal arms trafficking under the pretext of writing a book about it. I recently read a novel by Frederick Forsythe, where the agent behaves in that stupid way. The result is catastrophic.</p> <p>Both the writer and the spy do not aim to take a snapshot of reality. That would be a job for the voyeur. The voyeur likes form, its fleeting sparkles dazzle him, while spies, including writers, stubbornly try to peek behind the facade of the visible. Form could turn out to be camouflage, with nuclear warheads hidden behind it. Therefore, they never take reality for what it is. The voyeur's horizon is limited to the window frame or to the gap between the blinds. It often captures many interesting things, but what cannot be seen is probably even more interesting.</p> <p>Both writers and spies seem to not have a context of their own. They like to infiltrate, but they rarely integrate. Beyond all their incarnations lies the blank page, the information vacuum they must proceed to fill with text, artistic or operative, depending on their vocation. The work of an intelligence officer usually becomes available to as small a circle of people as possible. The work of the writer – quite the opposite. But at the end of the day, both build a parallel world, which reflects reality in reverse.</p> <p>An anti–universe? </p> <p> </p> <p><strong>With the contribution by some of the participants at the 2021 Translation Workshop: </strong>Rozalia Petkova, Petriela Bacheva, Petia Ivanova, Bistra Andreeva, Vera Ivanova, Gergana Taleva, Ivelina Yotsova, Gergana Rantcheva, Marina Stefanova, Veronika Velcheva, Sophia Kleinsasser, Denitsa Todorova, Nicoletta Dicova, Gabriela Manova</p> <p><strong>Velina Minkoff</strong> is a literary translator and the author of three books in three languages. Her story collection Red Shorts (2001) was written in English and in 2020 was published in French. Her debut novel The Red and Blue Report of the Green Amoeba, originally published in Bulgarian in 2015, was published in French by Actes sud in 2018. Her second short story collection, Full–bush Brazillian was published in 2018. Velina lives in Paris, where she freelances as a translator, editor, lecturer, and writer. She is currently a doctoral candidate in translation of Bulgarian Literature at INALCO.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div class="uk-panel"><img class="uk-align-left uk-margin-remove-adjacent" alt="EK_Logo.jpg" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V135-136/EK_Logo.jpg" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION" width="50%" /> THE <a href="http://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</a> and VAGABOND, Bulgaria's English Monthly, cooperate in order to enrich the English language with translations of contemporary Bulgarian writers. Every year we give you the chance to read the work of a dozen young and sometimes not-so-young Bulgarian writers that the EKF considers original, refreshing and valuable. Some of them have been translated in English for the first time. The EKF has decided to make the selection of authors' work and to ensure they get first-class English translation, and we at VAGABOND are only too happy to get them published in a quality magazine. Enjoy our fiction pages.</div> </div> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-175" hreflang="en">Issue 175</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/culture/fiction" hreflang="en">FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3022&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="CBsirs4DRxYN0gT039I5Jn9FY9KKQOzbv_LDm8LGowM"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 29 Apr 2021 13:58:10 +0000 DimanaT 3022 at http://www.vagabond.bg http://www.vagabond.bg/writer-spy-3022#comments TOO FAR FOR COMFORT http://www.vagabond.bg/too-far-comfort-2875 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">TOO FAR FOR COMFORT</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Ekaterina Petrova</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Mon, 11/30/2020 - 11:29</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>An essay written within the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation's recent workshop Close to Home: Writing Personal Nonfiction Drawn from Life with Evan James</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>"Are all Bulgarians as touchy-feely as you?" The question had never occurred to me, until my friend Jenny asked me a few weeks after we met during our freshman year of college in Saint Paul, Minnesota. This was the first time I thought about personal space explicitly, even though I'd probably experienced it on a sensory level throughout my whole life. I was coming from a high school in Kuwait, which, although American in name, spirit, and language of instruction, was actually a hard-to-disentangle jumble of cultures, customs, greeting habits, and levels of touchiness. In Bulgaria, where I usually spent summer and winter vacations, friends tended to hug and kiss each other regularly, while strangers often stood a little too close for my own personal comfort. In the States, the tables seemed to have turned: many of the Americans I was meeting in college seemed to favor saying hello by waving at one another awkwardly while maintaining a distance of a few feet, and it was my tendency to stand a little too close that soon became a running joke among my new friends.</p> <p>A few weeks later in anthropology class, we learned about a social experiment that examined cultural differences in social and professional interactions. It dawned on me that I was behaving quite similarly to the South American businessmen from the study who, in their zeal and excitement during negotiations, would unwittingly keep taking steps forward, while their North American counterparts would keep stepping backward until their backs were against a wall.</p> <p>Personal space, and by extension physical touch, is sometimes thought of as a kind of language, which – much like spoken language – we learn and then use to communicate our emotions, thoughts, and needs. As someone who's had a lifelong interest in languages and makes their living by deciphering meaning in one language and attempting to transfer it into another one, I'm especially intrigued by this comparison. And it seems to me that many things that are true of "regular" languages are even truer of the language of touch. Despite assumptions to the contrary, I don't believe that we can ever truly "master" a language, whether we're born into it or acquire it later in life. This is even more so the case with the language of touch, which seems like something that's continuously learned, reflected on, and (re)negotiated. With every language, including the language of touch, knowing all the rules and conventions certainly helps, but it doesn't guarantee that you'll never break them, either on purpose or in what may be an innocent mistake.</p> <p>Since those early college days, I've become much more aware of people's varying preferences when it comes to their personal space and I make a conscious effort to respect them. I'd like to think that becoming a translator has had some bearing on my ability to interpret nonverbal signals when interacting with people, so that I don't behave in ways that make them feel uncomfortable. And yet, my enthusiasm sometimes still gets the better of me and I find myself standing too close to someone I've just met and waving around my arms a little too energetically. Over the years – inadvertently – I've literally cornered friends while talking to them at parties, squeezed myself into elevators packed with strangers, and, on one occasion, even doubled up in a revolving door with a woman who had just interviewed me for a job. In these and many other instances, I can only hope that my relatively small stature and the fact I'm a woman has saved from me coming off as a total creep.</p> <p>But there have also been plenty of times when I've found myself on the other side of the equation.</p> <p>Once, I was sitting in a Brooklyn bar with Nicole Miceli, a tiny but fierce friend originally from Staten Island. Nicole was one of the best people to tell stories to, as she seemed to genuinely love hearing them. We were sipping our gin and tonics, and I was telling her some story that I don't even vaguely remember now, but which must've been gripping enough, as she listened intensely and occasionally interrupted me to exclaim, in her New York accent, "Get outta here!" Every "get outta here" was accompanied by a wide-eyed dropping of the jaw and a friendly but forceful push against the side of my leg. Until she finally shoved so hard that I fell off my barstool. We weren't even drunk.</p> <p>Living in New York City, in general, could be a challenge when it came to personal space. Riding the packed subway – bodies pressed against bodies, other people's breath on the back of my neck, arms intertwined as everyone tried to hold on to the pole – did occasionally feel exhilarating, but more often than that it made me feel like a squeezed lemon on the verge of a nervous breakdown.</p> <p>Later, when I was in my early thirties, I spent a few years living in the south of France. There, as if the mere fact of having to kiss people when first being introduced to them weren't enough, one is expected to kiss them not once, not twice, but three times, on alternating cheeks. <em>Noblesse oblige</em>. Of course, there was something to be said for the immediate sense of intimacy and camaraderie that this kissing of complete strangers gave rise to. But sometimes, it got to be too much, especially when it came to people I knew I probably wouldn't become friends with. So, on more than one occasion, my boyfriend and I would be strolling down the street, he'd recognize some acquaintance of his and head over to greet them, and I'd walk off in the other direction, pretending we weren't together, so that I wouldn't have to kiss some random person that I'd never see again.</p> <p>These days, of course, everything is different.</p> <p>In the spring, when the global pandemic was declared and everyone had to start social distancing, I thought that all these years of being aware of how personal space can oscillate, adjusting how I handle it according to different people, places, and situations, and sometimes even playing around with it, would have equipped me to deal with this "new reality" and helped me adapt to it more easily.</p> <p>But it hasn't, not really. In many ways, out of the countless challenges of this "new reality," I've found the lack of physical closeness one of the hardest to deal with. Though I find it unpleasant and it makes it hard to breathe, I got used to wearing a facemask in public places. I got used to coming home and immediately rushing into the bathroom to scrub my hands with scalding water and soap for 20 seconds. I got used to wiping my phone down with rubbing alcohol, teaching a class on Zoom, being unable to go to my favorite yoga studio, and waiting in line outside the supermarket. I even got used to not traveling, which for someone who has been on the move constantly pretty much all their life, has been no easy feat.</p> <p>But not touching, hugging, or kissing friends, family, and loved ones – even strangers, if I'm being honest – has been pretty crushing. It's kind of amazing, and perhaps quite revealing, that I first heard the French phrase <em>crève-cœur</em> and learned what it means not during my three-year sojourn in France, nor during the disintegration of my relationship with my French boyfriend, which eventually put an end to that sojourn, but only a couple of weeks ago, while listening to President Macron's address to the nation, in which he asked people to abstain from getting together with friends and family, "même si c'est un crève-cœur." Even if it causes heartbreak.</p> <p>As I write this, Bulgaria is preparing to go into another lockdown, which is likely to last until spring, so I'm bracing myself for a long fall and miserable winter of social distancing and no physical contact. Thankfully, the numbers weren't so bad during the summer, so the measures were temporarily relaxed and it was possible to go out and get together with friends I hadn't seen for months. In spite of recommendations against it, we would hug tightly when saying hello and goodbye, and sometimes, unable to help ourselves, even in the middle of sitting together. It felt as though we were trying to stock up on physical touch, just like you have to build up reserves of Vitamin D in the summer, which are then supposed to carry you through the winter.</p> <p>I don't have a clear idea of how it's all going to unfold. I don't think anybody does. I do know that I'll have to find other ways – other languages – to feel close to the people I love. I'm trying to be grateful for the small blessings. Lockdown has actually made it easier to stay in (virtual, if not physical) touch with friends in faraway places – something I've never been very good about. It's allowed me to spend more time with my mom, though I've been keeping more of a physical distance from her than usual. It's given me the chance to sit down and look through old photo albums and remember friendships and journeys I haven't thought about in a long time. It's provided an opportunity to start making my way though friends' books, manuscripts, translations, and other creative projects, to which I wasn't able to give the attention they deserved before.</p> <p>Still, none of these activities can ever fully compensate for the real thing, so I very much hope that we'll be able to touch one another again before too long. And I'm not alone in this, apparently: according to several studies, most people mention "hugging my loved ones" as one of the first things they want to do once the pandemic is over.</p> <p>In the meantime, as I figure things out, it looks like my mom's poor cats are going to have to bear the brunt as the sole recipients of all my physical affection, which has nowhere else to go now. By the end of the lockdown in the spring, the sight of me with my arms outstretched was enough to send the two of them running away to hide in unreachable corners. But they're both British Shorthairs, a breed that's also known as the Cheshire Cat. So for the time being I guess they'll have to grin and bear it. </p> <p><strong>Ekaterina Petrova</strong> <em>is a literary translator and nonfiction writer. She holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Iowa, an MSc in European Politics from the London School of Economics, and a BA in International Studies and German Studies from Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN. Currently based in Sofia, she has also spent time living, studying, and/or working in Kuwait, New York, Berlin, Cuba, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, and the south of France. </em></p> <p> </p> <p><strong>Close to Home workshop</strong><em> is part of the Alone Together, the virtual edition of CapitaLiterature in 2020, implemented with the support of the Embassy of the United States to Bulgaria and Sofia Municipality's Cultural Calendar.</em></p> <p> </p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div class="uk-panel"><img class="uk-align-left uk-margin-remove-adjacent" alt="EK_Logo.jpg" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V135-136/EK_Logo.jpg" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION" width="50%" /> THE <a href="http://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</a> and VAGABOND, Bulgaria's English Monthly, cooperate in order to enrich the English language with translations of contemporary Bulgarian writers. Every year we give you the chance to read the work of a dozen young and sometimes not-so-young Bulgarian writers that the EKF considers original, refreshing and valuable. Some of them have been translated in English for the first time. The EKF has decided to make the selection of authors' work and to ensure they get first-class English translation, and we at VAGABOND are only too happy to get them published in a quality magazine. Enjoy our fiction pages.</div> </div> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-170" hreflang="en">Issue 170</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/culture/creative-non-fiction" hreflang="en">CREATIVE NON-FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=2875&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="LLEW9VXt8PWRwNPP2iGre5CkJZCSli5SCCnsr0tjhMs"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 30 Nov 2020 09:29:22 +0000 DimanaT 2875 at http://www.vagabond.bg http://www.vagabond.bg/too-far-comfort-2875#comments RED TIDE http://www.vagabond.bg/red-tide-2842 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">RED TIDE</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Josip Novakovich</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 10/30/2020 - 10:57</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>A text from the The Alone Together series, an initiative of the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation. Josip Novakovich (Canada) is a Sozopol Fiction Seminars fellow 2009</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>To defrost from a long Arctic Vortex and to draw mangroves in charcoal I flew to an artist colony near Fort Myers, Florida, on an elongated and thin island, a Key. I didn't know there were Keys on the West Coast of Florida, only south of Miami, where I had never been. It seems a Key is a glorified sandbar which has gained solidity through vegetation sinking roots and tides bringing in more sand, mostly white but with specks of black. Some of the black came from thousands of years of shark teeth, and every morning I could see people collecting the teeth. It was an art form. You had to gaze into the sand to discern a little smooth triangle, a shark's tooth. First you just don't see them, but once you see one, you see others; your eyes have been trained. If you collected enough, you could make a necklace. Anyhow, it was all entertaining.</p> <p>As were the living sharks. The first day of my stay there, I swam and saw the dolphin fins, nicely curved backwards. Passers-by said, Isn't it too cold? I said, No, just right. And they said, you must be Russian. I live in Canada. Oh, OK, that's similar, they said. Well, there's another guy swimming, I said. Let's ask him where he's from. And we did. I am from Sweden, he said to the delight of “native” Floridians. The next day I swam some more, and a helicopter flew above me creating wind. I got out and walked along the beach and soon a cop showed up and said, I just saw you swimming from up there, and let me tell you, you weren't alone. You swam among a bunch of sharks. Wow, that's an uncomfortable thought, I said. They come out at dawn and sunset, he said. They won't do anything to you, but it's still good to be aware that they are there. I thanked the guy. The next morning as I swam in deep waters I saw fins gliding and thought, great, more lovely dolphins, but these fins were straight up, triangular, indicating sharks. I was about to panic to get out of the water, but that would do no good as the sharks would be much faster than me. The fins slid gracefully past me at a distance of some fifty paces though of course you can't count in paces in deep waters. Well, I got out of the water and told Robin, an elegant lady who ran the artist colony, about the sharks, and she said, These are nursing sharks. What does that mean? I asked. I don't want them to nurse me. Well, she said, they won't do anything to you. You are more likely to lose a limb riding a bike on Manasota Key road than swimming here. Will you at least wear a helmet when you bike around? The road is so narrow and some of the retired people who live here may be half blind and not see you. You've heard this, that the old people retire on the West Coast of Florida and their parents on the east coast?</p> <p>It was a paradise to have a lot of time in a cottage, look out at the sea, draw sketches or shark teeth which were shaped just  like shark fins on the drawing board,  open the windows and listen to the waves, and then stroll to the Main house to fix a grouper paprikash in the kitchen (my fusion, combining Florida and Hungary), past a resident Turtle, named Toulouse. He was supposedly 50 years old, but nobody knew for sure, not even Toulouse, at least not in our terms. Or maybe he knew it all, and he looked like he did with his bald head, like Churchill. I have no idea who gave him the name. Iguanas ran around, like velociraptor babies, and men in orange uniforms, like garbage collectors with nets, ran after them. What are these guys doing here? I asked Robin, who seemed to know everything. Oh, they are just catching iguanas. They are quite a pest. This is not their natural habitat, and they threaten the sea-turtle population because they eat their eggs. So, what do you do with them? I asked. We catch them and drive them to an area which is their habitat, near the Everglades. OK, that's interesting, it would be like catching the Quebecois who live in an environment which couldn't possibly be their habitat and loading them up on a cargo plane to dump them on Virginia Beach, I said. But isn't that what you do? Robin said. Who dumped you here?</p> <p>During my fourth day of stay, there was a gluey smell and I sneezed and closed my windows and turned on the AC. The next day the smell grew smellier. I wanted to go for a swim but saw on the beach hundreds of fish, belly up. What is that? I asked a leathery-faced walker, who was with his metal detector looking for wedding rings and Spanish gold. A couple of ships with gold had sunk on the eastern side of Florida but that didn't prevent people from hoping that something similar had happened on the western side. And the walker answered, That's the freaky Red Tide. Some bacteria in the water multiply and use up all the oxygen, so the fish can't breathe, and they die. Sharks too? I asked. Well, they don't, they go deeper, but they may starve if too much fish dies and washes up on the shore. The problem with the bacteria is that they consume all the oxygen which could be used by plankton to grow, so there's not enough food for the fish.</p> <p>The next day there were perhaps a thousand fish, shimmering in the rising sun, silver bathed in golden rays. But the air was heavy, like fumes in a tire factory. My eyes watered, I sneezed and coughed. I hoped this would improve in a day or so but the following day there were more dead fish and I coughed more. Nearly everybody around me coughed. Some elderly people developed pneumonia and perhaps a few deaths resulted from this sea-plague. I wondered why this heavy bacterial air didn't bother some and did most of us. After a week, I had a full-blown bronchitis. I wondered how long the sea would be giving up its life, its fish. Black vulture appeared on the island: hundreds of them swooping down onto the dead, filling their beaks and throats. When I drove to town to buy oranges and avocadoes, I saw several trees without leaves, and hunched black birds like old monks, sitting on the branches. It seemed like doomsday trees on which vulture grew. There was a certain deadly beauty to it all—I took a photo of them to use as a base for a charcoal drawing. Charcoal was not good for mangroves, which came in hundreds of shades of brown and green, but it was perfect for the vulture. I wanted to leave the paradise now, coughing and breathing hard, as though afflicted with MERS or something. And maybe I was, I thought. What came first, the bacteria from the air or from the water? And how about viruses? Do viruses and bacteria get along?</p> <p>&amp;&amp;&amp;</p> <p>At night, my cough tortured me, and even gagged me. What is this? TB, like in my childhood? I couldn't sleep and listened to the sea, which grew loud, and each waves sounded different. Winds howled, palm branches flew, a coconut hit the roof; and it was a near hurricane, and some said it was a hurricane, and most of the beach was gone when it was all over. All that sand and the shark teeth that the sea was spitting out for millennia were swallowed back into the sea. All the vultures were gone too and so were the dead fish. Maybe they came back to life in the water, but I doubt it, unless there's submarine Jesus resurrecting the dead fish but not dead people. The iguanas were gone, and I was about to be gone too as my time was up.</p> <p>Now, a couple of nights before my departure, a writer friend of mine, Melvin, and I drank a lot of red wine with an opera composer, a curly-haired Catalan, Sandra. I faced her and the house on the porch and she  faced out to the sea and the sky. My friend Melvin said, I am sleepy, I want to wake up early to finish a chapter, and he went to his cottage. And Sandra said, the sky is so incredible now, you can see the Milky Way and the constellations. I said, yes, if you don't have astigmatism and aren't near-sighted. You know why people imagined that stars have limbs? Because most people are at least slightly astigmatic and the light from the stars breaks into lines. That could be true, she said, but I can see them sharply, beautiful dots, ending many sentences. You don't see the text, lost in the darkness, but only the periods, and you can imagine what the sky could reveal if you could read the darkness. Wow, that's cool, I said. Why don't you sit next to me so you can see the stars? OK, I said, and as we looked up to figure out the constellations with our hands outstretched, our hands touched and we kissed. And I said, let me show the stars on the other side of the globe, and I pulled my I-phone with an app that showed the current position of the planets and the constellations. It was a surprise, maybe a result of the Zinfandel. That's amazing, I said, totally unexpected. Oh, don't tell me that, she said. We walked on the beach now and I suggested that we follow up, and she said, Not so fast, I am married. Let's see how we feel tomorrow when we are sober. What, you aren't sober? Of course not, she answered. Neither are you. Let's sleep on this, and if we like the idea in the morning, we'll walk on the beach for hours together. That's a good idea, I said. Like the Persians, they used to make a decision while drunk and then reexamined it while sober, or the other way around. It had to stand both states of mind. Exactly, Sandra said.</p> <p>I was ecstatic, and so I listened to some Schubert impromptu, I think number two, performed by Alfred Brendl. I heard Sandra through the partition, in the other half of the cottage, talking loudly, arguing about something with her husband, a concert pianist. Lucky man, he could play the same impromptu probably just as well as Brendl and he lived with this beautiful Catalan genius. Then I coughed. Although the air had cleared, my lungs didn't.</p> <p>While I was leaving the following day, she did give me a kiss on the cheek but that all reminded me that we didn't have a real kiss. And the artistic director, Robin, also kissed me on the cheeks. I didn't know that would be the last time like that either. And we all coughed. My cough lasted for two months after that February, and I suspected that I had the coronavirus but didn't want to go near any hospital as long as I didn't deteriorate. Maybe Sandra had brought it back from Spain. Maybe Robin had come back from Italy.</p> <p>A year later, after a million people had died of the disease, and the virus seemed to be gone, with a new vaccine developed by Pfeizer, I crossed the border and visited NYC. There I visited Melvin, who had just finished a huge novel about the Popes. We shook hands, and his wife said, You shouldn't do that, that's a barbaric custom. That's true, he said, but this is an old friend, and the customs die hard. Melvin, you promised you'd never shake hands again. Yes, I know. I promised I wouldn't smoke either, but that hasn't worked so well.</p> <p>But haven't we developed herd resistance to Covid-19? I asked. Or has it mutated into Covid-21, and it will hit us after a few handshakes and shared glasses?</p> <p>I think that's quite possible, Melvin said.</p> <p>I had communicated with Sandra, and she invited me to see the premier of her opera in a dying Catalan dialect. I thought Catalan was a dialect, but no, it's a language, and like any language, it has dialects. Only 500 people in a couple of villages spoke this dialect—the Spanish flu had taken with it many of the speakers of the dialect--but here, Sandra resurrected it in an opera. Now, the Metropolitan looked different from what I was used to. Every second row was taken out and moreover, every second remaining seat was taken out, so that it looked like a first class on British Airways rather than economy class on Delta. I liked that—I could stretch my legs and lean my elbows on the arms of the chair. And the choir was like that too, not standing together. And even in the opera, there were no kisses; the lovers blew kisses to each other from far away.</p> <p>That evening Sandra was too busy with her crew but she met me for a drink in a wine bar with crimson sofas, and she said she still remembered the stars we saw together. I remember more than that. Our first and last kiss.</p> <p>This Covid thing started. Maybe you gave it to me?</p> <p>Or you to me? You traveled in Spain and Italy. But now we are probably immune if we've had it. We could even kiss again.</p> <p>It would be a crime against humanity, she joked, and said, Chin chin, and we drank some Royal Rioja, and I had a big gulp, listening to my Adam's apple pop up.</p> <p>Wow, it's twenty-five bucks a glass, I said. Hard to get carried away at that rate!</p> <p>Don't be a cheap Canadian! Haven't you saved enough money in this long self-isolation? I have. Now we can splurge. Anyway, we aren't going to get carried away. I am not going to kiss—at least not until I know you much better and you provide the results of a test that can't be older than a week. I'd sooner have sex with you than kiss. The technology of sex is safe, you know with all the condoms, gloves, and facemasks and goggles.</p> <p>Oh, that's so depressing, it resembles surgery, like we are getting rid of an appendix.</p> <p>But it's way safer than exchanging liquids mouth to mouth. Anyway, this is all theory. We might look at the stars, however, on your I-phone app.</p> <p>By the way, I missed the meaning of your opera. What is it about?</p> <p>About the Black Plague. In the plague many dialects disappeared, you know that.</p> <p>Kind of the reverse from the Tower of Babel?</p> <p>We knocked our glasses. Sandra's eyes sparkled under sharp eyebrows. The glass rim got a fresh print of her cherry lipstick, just the lower lip, and I looked up to see what the glass missed and I missed, a red wave with a drop off under her nasal septum, a wonderful wave reminding me of the red tide in the stormy sea. I would be sure to paint the upper lip in cherry and crimson.</p> <p><em>The Alone Together series presents literary work by Sozopol Seminars' faculty and fellows written in the confines of our authors' homes during the coronavirus outbreak in an attempt to connect each other and to carry on the magic and spirit of the Seminars, which for the first time in thirteen memorable years has had to be canceled. The Elizabeth Kostova Foundation asked writers from five different continents to look through the windows of their studies, literally and metaphorically, and share their literary imagination. The project was launched in March 2020 and culminated in the end of May 2020. </em></p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div class="uk-panel"><img class="uk-align-left uk-margin-remove-adjacent" alt="EK_Logo.jpg" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V135-136/EK_Logo.jpg" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION" width="50%" /> THE <a href="http://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</a> and VAGABOND, Bulgaria's English Monthly, cooperate in order to enrich the English language with translations of contemporary Bulgarian writers. Every year we give you the chance to read the work of a dozen young and sometimes not-so-young Bulgarian writers that the EKF considers original, refreshing and valuable. Some of them have been translated in English for the first time. The EKF has decided to make the selection of authors' work and to ensure they get first-class English translation, and we at VAGABOND are only too happy to get them published in a quality magazine. Enjoy our fiction pages.</div> </div> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-169" hreflang="en">Issue 169</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/culture/fiction" hreflang="en">FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=2842&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="Bvbn-sDivSsokXdDlCUu8SgJxQHLDb5IkFB9C-cp9GE"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 30 Oct 2020 08:57:23 +0000 DimanaT 2842 at http://www.vagabond.bg http://www.vagabond.bg/red-tide-2842#comments ALONE TOGETHER http://www.vagabond.bg/alone-together-2597 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">ALONE TOGETHER</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Laurie Steed</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 09/02/2020 - 17:41</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>A text from the The Alone Together series, an initiative of the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>We're in the time of COVID-19, and I'm in the southernmost country in the world, save for New Zealand and Antarctica.</p> <p>Restrictions are in place, although I read that ours are nothing like the lockdowns elsewhere around the world. Most days I feel lucky, although this is not luck that you'd necessarily want. It's fate at its purest; my parents moved from the United Kingdom more than forty years ago and settled us first in New Zealand, and then Australia. There but for the grace of a job offer go I and my family into most people's current reality.</p> <p>The days are long and tiring, but only in the sense that I have two young children who need snuggles, sandwiches, and hour-long marathons of Just Dance. I first walked at night to calm my mind, and then ran until a knee began to ache. I took to riding; it's cold, and some days I ride in squares and circles, pushing, waiting, stop and stand, as though I might wait out these days in my geographical cul-de-sac.</p> <p>My days are filled with screens: with meetings, catch-ups, and email correspondence. It's as though my professional world now suddenly has a volume switch. Unlike my friends on Facebook, I don't need to post a picture of myself when I was twenty-years-old because I feel like I am twenty years old. I'm eating better now – there's something about the slowing of time that encourages one to create waves of colour in one's food. Still, I am otherwise Coked up (of the cola variety), stirred up (of the emotional variety), and longing, always for the days I spent walking around the streets of Sofia.</p> <p>When I think of Sofia, I see Banitsa, and shops whose windows are barely at knee level. I see myself over and over, trying to explain myself. For some reason this never tires any of the people I speak to. I'm trying, and failing, to speak Bulgarian, and they're trying to sound out what on earth it is that I might be saying – and so we talk in stilted, broken, but happy conversation.</p> <p>Wandering out of Sofia towards the coast, in search of words I've not yet found. A day in Sozopol with Zarev, a bearded beast of a man, writer, and deep thinker. We're sat opposite in a restaurant, hands clasped together, speaking slowly but passionately, a translator at our side. Minutes. Hours. Turning into stillness.</p> <p>In time, turning to words on a page, only they come so slowly. Book number two has become book number three and may in time be number four.</p> <p>Still, I miss a city. That city. Its food and people. Because Sofia, like Perth, was open, and it's the openness I miss, more than anything else.</p> <p>There is something about a closed-up city that can break you. But it doesn't have to. It's a choice, like smiling. Like listening. Like taking one's hand when they've begun to cry.</p> <p>When I am older, I will tell my sons about a book called The Bear that began with a shared conversation in Sozopol, translated and interpreted as I went. I will mention that I wrote it because I missed connection and I longed for the slowing of time. I will tell them this, knowing that the slowing of time is a gift akin to the clinking of ice, or the way my palm fits snuggly behind my now toddler's knee-cap.</p> <p>I will tell them this because from there I see links, lines, and dangling threads that drew us together. Because I see them still, even in isolation, when looking out of my office window. A cul-de-sac, it seems. Only there's a pathway, right at the back of the frame.</p> <p>It seems there are always paths back. Ways out of one place and into the other, if you look far enough into the distance.</p> <p><strong>The Alone Together series presents literary work by Sozopol Seminars’ faculty and fellows written in the confines of our authors’ homes during the coronavirus outbreak in an attempt to connect each other and to carry on the magic and spirit of the Seminars, which for the first time in thirteen memorable years has had to be canceled. The Elizabeth Kostova Foundation asked writers from five different continents to look through the windows of their studies, literally and metaphorically, and share their literary imagination. The project was launched in March 2020 and culminated in the end of May 2020.</strong></p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div class="uk-panel"><img class="uk-align-left uk-margin-remove-adjacent" alt="EK_Logo.jpg" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V135-136/EK_Logo.jpg" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION" width="50%" /> THE <a href="http://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</a> and VAGABOND, Bulgaria's English Monthly, cooperate in order to enrich the English language with translations of contemporary Bulgarian writers. Every year we give you the chance to read the work of a dozen young and sometimes not-so-young Bulgarian writers that the EKF considers original, refreshing and valuable. Some of them have been translated in English for the first time. The EKF has decided to make the selection of authors' work and to ensure they get first-class English translation, and we at VAGABOND are only too happy to get them published in a quality magazine. Enjoy our fiction pages.</div> </div> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-167-168" hreflang="en">Issue 167-168</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/culture/fiction" hreflang="en">FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=2597&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="I91m7_Qt4nxeKRVRCvsgHYujeIDs9hBRaYI1pPmOz_A"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 02 Sep 2020 14:41:29 +0000 DimanaT 2597 at http://www.vagabond.bg http://www.vagabond.bg/alone-together-2597#comments THE SHAPES WE TWIST INTO http://www.vagabond.bg/shapes-we-twist-2342 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">THE SHAPES WE TWIST INTO</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Karen Outen; edited by Kishani Widyaratna</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 08/05/2020 - 10:14</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>A text from the The Alone Together series, an initiative of the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>I've been to Bulgaria twice, separated by a gap of three years, though it feels like I've actually been to two different Bulgarias. This difference is on my mind as I think of how my home country, America, has changed in about the same timeframe. I feel like I've lived in two different Americas lately, and think back to Bulgaria looking for words to pinpoint this sensation.</p> <p>I visited my first Bulgaria as a fellow of the 2009 Sozopol Fiction Seminar, and I instantly loved the country and the wonderfully open people in its literary community. Bulgaria had just joined the European Union in 2007, and people exuded a sense of confident hope when they talked about the future. This confirmed my enthusiasm for the place, which spilled over to my family back in America when I Skyped with them. (Somewhere there's a video of my sons, then four and two, running circles in our living room while the eldest shouts “We're going to Bulgaria!”) When I came home I immediately started plotting ways to get back.</p> <p>I visited my second Bulgaria as a guest of the 2012 Sozopol seminar and found the mood more sombre. The same people I'd met three years earlier didn't talk about their country the same way. The national future didn't sound as rosy, and people's individual futures seemed less rosy too. I learned that the government in place back in May 2009 was ousted two months later, and by my 2012 visit its replacement was on shaky ground—I remember hearing about problems with utilities and oil. The grumblings I heard would turn to protests and this government, too, would eventually collapse in early 2013.</p> <p>Some of the difference I felt between 2009 and 2012 stems from my own impressions, of course. But I can't shake one fact: vastly more Bulgarians I met talked about wanting to leave their home country in 2012 than in 2009, and they talked about it more stridently. I think back to this phenomenon when I compare America today to America before the November 2016 presidential election. Fantasizing about leaving the country has been a pastime of the literary/cultural community for much longer than I've been part of it. But under the previous administration those fantasies didn't feel as urgent. We had awful skeletons in our closet, but we were starting to face them with hope. America felt on the up-and-up.</p> <p>Then came the 2016 election and its massive cultural swing from center-left to hard right. Escape hatch fantasies in the community of writers, artists, and musicians I know and love became urgent and loud. As America's national and personal futures grew less rosy, we looked to other countries for freedom and hope. (My personal favorites: Portugal and Norway.) Covid-19 has severely damaged my fantasies of escape, but I still find myself envying friends who live in countries that aren't tearing themselves apart aggressively like America is. Sometimes when it gets really awful, I excoriate myself for never learning a foreign language well enough to gain employment in it – which means my family and I are stuck here no matter how far down the sinkhole of its own darkness America wants to dive.</p> <p>How far down we go is anybody's guess because America isn't used to such rapid swings in national identity, and American psyches aren't either. The last time we experienced such disaffection and self-questioning was during the run of political assassinations in the 1960s, and our current fracture feels potentially more violent. But Bulgaria is more used to national disaffection, since it has survived Ottoman rule, Communism, a rickety transition to European-style capitalism, and multiple quick regime changes.</p> <p>So I look out my writing room window asking what lessons Bulgaria has for America, because it has to know something to survive almost fifteen hundred years. Doesn't it? But I fear the only lesson America can learn right now is the same one our species keeps learning regardless of nation or era: The powerful will always take more power, and those they take it will from suffer. That story never changes, whether it unfolds in Sofia or New York or Sozopol or South Dakota. All that differs are the details of place, the specificity of loss, and the shapes that people twist themselves into to keep their sense of being intact.</p> <p>This is the flower of the human species –what stubbornly remains when hope for the future gets stripped away by other people's need for control. This is what Bulgaria knows. America, protected from its darkness by its willful self-delusions for so long, is no longer able to maintain our facade, and we're learning hard truths the hard way.</p> <p><em>The Alone Together series presents literary work by Sozopol Seminars' faculty and fellows written in the confines of our authors' homes during the coronavirus outbreak in an attempt to connect each other and to carry on the magic and spirit of the Seminars, which for the first time in thirteen memorable years has had to be canceled. The Elizabeth Kostova Foundation asked writers from five different continents to look through the windows of their studies, literally and metaphorically, and share their literary imagination. The project was launched in March 2020 and culminated in the end of May 2020.</em></p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div class="uk-panel"><img class="uk-align-left uk-margin-remove-adjacent" alt="EK_Logo.jpg" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V135-136/EK_Logo.jpg" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION" width="50%" /> THE <a href="http://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</a> and VAGABOND, Bulgaria's English Monthly, cooperate in order to enrich the English language with translations of contemporary Bulgarian writers. Every year we give you the chance to read the work of a dozen young and sometimes not-so-young Bulgarian writers that the EKF considers original, refreshing and valuable. Some of them have been translated in English for the first time. The EKF has decided to make the selection of authors' work and to ensure they get first-class English translation, and we at VAGABOND are only too happy to get them published in a quality magazine. Enjoy our fiction pages.</div> </div> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-166" hreflang="en">Issue 166</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/culture/fiction" hreflang="en">FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=2342&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="eTFQUQREOkpx6aDDXeUFmEUzERGzvOWWoMkb8VRshu0"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 05 Aug 2020 07:14:36 +0000 DimanaT 2342 at http://www.vagabond.bg http://www.vagabond.bg/shapes-we-twist-2342#comments DESCENDING EVEREST, An excerpt from a novel http://www.vagabond.bg/descending-everest-excerpt-novel-1805 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">DESCENDING EVEREST, An excerpt from a novel</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Karen Outen; edited by Kishani Widyaratna</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 07/03/2020 - 10:51</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>This current issue presents a text by the 2019 Sozopol Fiction Seminars fellow and CapitaLiterature participant Karen Outen</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Mt. Everest, April 2011</p> <p>He knew he could conquer the anguish. His head pounded against dehydration and thin mountain air, as if a tiny demon lodged in his ear canal, pitchfork raised, the same demon who might whisper to him, What are you doing here, heading to the top of the world? Are you who you think you are?</p> <p>He trudged through the Western Cwm, the incongruously hot bowl across the belly of Lhotse, the mountain adjacent to Mt. Everest. The land lay nearly flat after the long, hard climb up through the Khumbu Icefall, a river of ice and crevasses and towering snow cliffs like sculpted meringue glazed with ice. He was headed now to Camp 2, higher than he had ever been. Only two more camps on the mountain before they attempted the push to the summit.</p> <p>It seemed a gift, the gentle slope of the Western Cwm wide and open between the dark ribs of Nuptse to the right and Everest to the left, the plateau of the Cwm like a stage on which they played out their lives: this day they were climbers, Dixon and the eight other members of his team, along with the Sherpas and the three guides who led them in this real and invented life of strife. They were fully of their own making, which was a burden, a privilege, a calling that led them above earth and into sky, seeking her: the sherpas called Everest "Chomolungma, Mother Goddess of the Earth."</p> <p>The wind calmed its bellow. At night in camp it often roared, a howling thing boring into your tent, scraping at its sides and trying to frighten you off, but here in the Western Cwm, there was relative quiet, there was respite from a steep climb, there was something nearly like welcome, nearly like familiar earth, low-slung and vast. The sun beamed on Dixon, hot and bright, the temperature in late morning already 70 degrees and rising to nearly 80 soon – who would believe this summer-like moment on Everest? Sweating, uncomfortable, Dixon slipped his backpack from his shoulders, removed the jacket of his bright blue snowsuit, and folded the jacket before placing it in his bag, all in languid movements as if he were underwater. He grabbed a handful of snow and piled it under his hat to cool himself, letting it melt and trickle like fingers down his neck.</p> <p>He slogged along in a sinewy dream, sweating, bowing his head to the sun – it wanted you to know its power; even in this foreign world, it was the same hot sun he might recall from back home in Maryland, and he could not decide if that was a comfort or a taunt. The snow glistened, its icy crust melting so that it crunched under Dixon's footsteps. The wind called its warnings, and still, he rose, he willed himself, hunkering into the sweat and chill of sun and wind, the tightness of his parched nasal passages and the roof of his mouth – when was the last time he tasted his own saliva? – he dug one foot, then the next, then the next.</p> <p>"Dixon! It's beach weather on the moon!" his brother Nate yelled back to him. Nate, just in front of him, panted lightly in the altitude but smiled, his black goggles a bit rock-star like, wide and gleaming on his face. Nate's dimpled cheeks wet with sweat, his medium-brown skin tanned a reddish-chestnut in the sun, and Dixon flashed onto childhood days at the Jersey shore, slathering on their mother's concoction of iodine and baby oil as suntan lotion then sliding slick and dark as eels into the water. He might be there just now, near some vast ocean, they might be boys playing if he squinted his eyes just right, the sun whiting out the world in front of him, the glare of it off the brittle snow like the glare off water. He panted hard, sweating, his head swimming and pounding. Nate came toward Dixon. Nate unzipped his one-piece snowsuit, slipped out of the top half, and let it hang behind him, stiff armed and bouncing from his waist – hadn't Dixon warned him to get a two-piece suit for just this reason? Dixon frowned slightly and Nate said, "How you doing, bro?" Nate looked strong, healthy. Hard to recall that just days ago he had been forced to descend to Base Camp, stricken with bronchitis. His hacking cough had been so bad at high camp that they feared he might break a rib. But healed now, he stood happily beside Dixon. Dixon whose temples reverberated with the pounding in his head. He peered at Nate across time and space and ever-thinning air. The suffering. He stood atop it and gave a thumbs up.</p> <p>"Stupid luck, is all," Nate leaned close to him and nearly whispered though he must be shouting to be heard above the wind. "That the altitude would be kicking your butt, that I'd be –" he shrugged, then lowered his head as if ashamed not to suffer as much as Dixon. "Let's just take it slow," Nate said, and he fell in beside Dixon a moment, his arm across his brother's shoulder, then he headed back in front of him, grabbed hold to the safety rope, and peered over his shoulders. "You with me?"</p> <p>Dixon raised his hand, waved towards Nate, towards the glare of sun that sparkled and skided across the icy mountain ridges, Dixon who was never left behind, Dixon who would conquer this.</p> <p>At last, after hours of climbing, Dixon, Nate, and their climbing group arrived at Camp 2 at 21,000 feet, a cluster of tents sprinkled yellow and blue across a snowy mountain ledge. They were perched so high above the world that they looked down not on houses and land but on a village of snow peaks and glacial spikes, the inhabited world obscured. In fact, they were so close to the moon that it didn't fully hide itself during the day, its soft half-globe showing as if through a private stage door half opened; why not? They, too, were of the heavens now.</p> <p><strong>Karen Outen</strong>'s fiction has appeared several times in Glimmer Train Stories, winning both the Family Matters (2010) and the Fiction Open (2000) contests; in The North American Review; in Essence magazine; and in the anthologies Where Love is Found and Mother Knows: 24 Tales of Motherhood. Her nonfiction essay "On Typing and Salvation" appeared in the anthology From Curlers to Chainsaws: Women and Their Machines, which was the Gold Medal winner of the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Award for Anthology. Her stories "Family Portraits" and "Watch Between" were performed on stage as part of the Writing Aloud fiction series at InterAct Theater in Philadelphia. She is a 2018 recipient of the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award. She has been a fellow at the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan and with the Pew Fellowships in the Arts. She has received awards from both the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Maryland State Arts Council. In 2004, she received her MFA from the University of Michigan, where she was awarded Hopwood Awards for graduate short fiction and for the novel. She has taught undergraduate writing at the University of Michigan, St. Mary's College of Maryland, and the University of Maryland University College. Karen was a visiting writer during Writers Week at the University of North Carolina –Wilmington and has given fiction readings throughout the Philadelphia area. She has participated in writing residencies at Hedgebrook writing retreat for women and at The Porches in Virginia. She is at work on a novel, Descending Everest. </p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div class="uk-panel"><img class="uk-align-left uk-margin-remove-adjacent" alt="EK_Logo.jpg" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V135-136/EK_Logo.jpg" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION" width="50%" /> THE <a href="http://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</a> and VAGABOND, Bulgaria's English Monthly, cooperate in order to enrich the English language with translations of contemporary Bulgarian writers. Every year we give you the chance to read the work of a dozen young and sometimes not-so-young Bulgarian writers that the EKF considers original, refreshing and valuable. Some of them have been translated in English for the first time. The EKF has decided to make the selection of authors' work and to ensure they get first-class English translation, and we at VAGABOND are only too happy to get them published in a quality magazine. Enjoy our fiction pages.</div> </div> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-165" hreflang="en">Issue 165</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/culture/fiction" hreflang="en">FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=1805&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="0aJQqwTfWcbtAnNN6Sp3Sg5_akK_-Ngx7Y7gSKLa8po"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 03 Jul 2020 07:51:24 +0000 DimanaT 1805 at http://www.vagabond.bg http://www.vagabond.bg/descending-everest-excerpt-novel-1805#comments BEING HAPPY http://www.vagabond.bg/being-happy-330 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">BEING HAPPY</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Tue, 06/02/2020 - 16:29</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>A text by the 2019 Sozopol Fiction Seminars fellow and CapitaLiterature participant Maria Makedonska</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>The White Gentleman decided that the weather was too beautiful this morning to waste the day in everyday nonsense. Therefore, he put on his happy hat and flung the door open with a flourish. He took a deep breath, then stepped onto the street with his left foot. The town was still asleep.</p> <p>The street was so quiet that he could hear his footsteps. He'd take three steps and then a hop, because walking in an even cadence was boring.</p> <p>The White Gentleman was shod in white shoes with pointy toes, above which he wore white pants with sharp creases, a white suit jacket with long coat-tails and, of course, his happy white hat, which he never went anywhere without. In his right hand he held a white umbrella, which he used to measure his steps. Left foot, right foot, left foot, hop.</p> <p>The street ahead of him began weaving into the yarn of the field, turning into a delicate thread, along which he skillfully balanced. The wind took hold of his coat-tails and blew them open like wings. The clouds in the sky began lining up for their morning walk and slowly set off ahead with their usual gait – from shape to shape. The White Gentleman watched them without upsetting his rhythm for a single second. As the day bloomed, the White Gentleman finally tore his gaze from the clouds to see that an endless field of poppies was stretching out in front of him. Quiet red sighs of spring.</p> <p>And there, in the middle of the red field, stood a young wolf, watching him. His fur was as violet as lavender and shone in the sun with a glycerin gleam. The fanciful beast good-naturedly waved his fluffy tail and then slipped between the man's legs. Before becoming lost among the poppies, the wolf bit his tail, which then remained between his teeth. He dropped it at the feet of the White Gentleman. Then he disappeared.</p> <p>The man slowly bent down and took the tail from the ground. He waved at the clouds with it. Then he tied it around his neck like a scarf. It was very soft and tickled his face. This tickle made him laugh; he became light as a joke, and the wind lifted him up. The White Gentleman began bouncing over the poppies through his laughter. An air current caught hold of him mid-jump, spinning and spinning him in little spirals, higher and higher into the sky. When the current finally quieted down, he saw the whole field below him. The poppies overflowed in the shape of a big puddle of blood amid the green fields. The grass was so young that its color was still electric. Something in it blinded him. A naked girl was sleeping in the grass. Flecks of sunlight danced on her closed eyelids, and her red lips ripened on her face like strawberries. Puffy white poplar seeds were raining down on her. They soaked slowly into her dream, spun in delicate pirouettes from the sighs of the wind, and quietly stole kisses from her lips. The White Gentleman couldn't stop looking at her. Suddenly, he, too, wanted urgently to steal a kiss. The wind played with his patience, though, carrying him sometimes up and sometimes down. Yet the man didn't stop looking at the sleeping girl, and he thought about what he would say to her when she woke up. "You are the dream of spring" – that's what he would say. And she would smile and kiss him. But how slowly he was falling downwards. More slowly than longing, more and more slowly than longing. The wind finally took mercy on him and spun him one last time before dropping him lightly beside the naked shoulder of the sleeping girl.</p> <p>The White Gentleman sighed and sat in the grass. His legs wouldn't hold him up, because what he saw cut him to the quick. In front of him lay not a naked girl, but a plastic doll. A superfluous part of someone's childhood thrown into the grass. She had no clothes on, and her naked flat plastic breasts caused him to burn with shame. Her curls, sheared off in places by a clumsy childish hand, were tangled with the weeds. Her face was dirtied with mud, and her unblinking gaze stared up at the sky.</p> <p>The White Gentleman was starting to leave when he heard a quiet voice: "I'm not sleeping."</p> <p>He turned around and saw that the doll was looking at him. Her look made him tingle. Out of his mouth, like a glass marble, rolled, "You are the dream of spring."</p> <p>A moment of silence nipped the grass like hoarfrost. The doll suddenly burst into tears. From the interior of her belly came frenetic falsetto sobs that grew more and more inconsolable.</p> <p>The White Gentleman took the doll and embraced her with both his arms. She was lost in his embrace, and her cries soaked into his beautiful white jacket like a stain. The White Gentleman tenderly consoled her.</p> <p>"Shhhhh. Quiet! Quiet! Why are you crying now?"</p> <p>The doll swallowed and cried out, "Because they abandoned me."</p> <p>"Who abandoned you?"</p> <p>"The girl with the blue shoes."</p> <p>"Why?"</p> <p>"Because I broke. My voice box got damaged and I can't say ‘mama' or laugh anymore, I can only cry. That's why the girl brought me here and left me. No one loves sad dolls."</p> <p>She choked on her sobs again. The man kissed her on her sad, stained cheek.</p> <p>"I love them."</p> <p>The doll stopped crying out of surprise and asked, "But why?"</p> <p>"Because they're beautiful when they sleep and when they cry."</p> <p>"And do you love me?" asked the doll innocently.</p> <p>"Out of all the sad dolls in the world, I love you the most."</p> <p>"You're lying. You're just the latest liar. Go away! Get out of here!"</p> <p>"I'm not lying! I love you with all my heart."</p> <p>"That's not true. Go! I don't want to see you anymore."</p> <p>"But I came down from the sky because of you."</p> <p>She wasn't listening to him anymore and had started crying again, drowning in her sobs.</p> <p>The man put her on the ground and turned around. The sunset had fallen in front of him all the way up to his chest, and he dove into it. He swam tiredly through the field. A sea of blooming lavender stretched out as far as his eyes could see. The crying of the sad doll could still be heard behind him, and it pulled him downwards like stones tied to his legs. All night long, the White Gentleman struggled against the lavender current. Not until dawn did the violet waves toss him, frozen, onto the night's shore. He could barely stand up, and he stepped trembling onto the road that led to his house. There, just a glance away from his house, a spring torrent began raining down. It soaked the White Gentleman to the bone; he hadn't even opened his umbrella, and he turned back towards the field. It looked unrealistically far away, smudged by the gray watercolor of the rain. Between the drops he seemed to hear the weeping of a broken doll. She had fallen asleep in the grass like a woman.</p> <p>Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the rain stopped. The sky cleared away its clouds and made room for the sunrise. It was early. The city was still sleeping and didn't even suspect that a person with wet white clothes was standing in a puddle of grief and staring into yesterday's day to recover there a memory of flying. The violet tail on his neck hung in matted strands, and it seemed to be strangling him and choking him at the same time.</p> <p>The White Gentleman finally opened his umbrella. Then he removed the violet tail from his neck. It hung in his hand like an ugly and tasteless keepsake of love. He touched it to his lips and whispered into its cold fur, "You are the dream of spring."</p> <p><strong>Maria Makedonska</strong> was born in the city named after the famous Bulgarian author Elin Pelin. She learnt to love reading in the home of another Bulgarian author who had strange ideas of wooden houses in the middle of a main square in Sofia, from which handmade newspapers were sold, photo novels about aliens, theaters in a suitcase, and concerts for only one person. Her father self-published the first poems she wrote in a tiny book named Farewell to Dolls. Fortunately, she never said goodbye to dolls, because years later she started shooting short stop motions. She never said goodbye to writing either, even got more attached to it. She has won some national contests for poetry and short stories such as those named after Veselin Hanchev, Rashko Sugarev and Usin Kerim. As a result of the Veselin Hanchev contest, she has published a poetry book, <em>Tremorio</em>. At present, she is writing a couple of scripts for short movies and finishing a collection of short stories, written as gifts to her friends. </p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div class="uk-panel"><img class="uk-align-left uk-margin-remove-adjacent" alt="EK_Logo.jpg" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V135-136/EK_Logo.jpg" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION" width="50%" /> THE <a href="http://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</a> and VAGABOND, Bulgaria's English Monthly, cooperate in order to enrich the English language with translations of contemporary Bulgarian writers. Every year we give you the chance to read the work of a dozen young and sometimes not-so-young Bulgarian writers that the EKF considers original, refreshing and valuable. Some of them have been translated in English for the first time. The EKF has decided to make the selection of authors' work and to ensure they get first-class English translation, and we at VAGABOND are only too happy to get them published in a quality magazine. Enjoy our fiction pages.</div> </div> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-164" hreflang="en">Issue 164</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/culture/fiction" hreflang="en">FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=330&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="KVZEFEFRXvMYI9dTXYLdxUIlnZkkyPfUJJpT9Ni-1DM"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Tue, 02 Jun 2020 13:29:58 +0000 DimanaT 330 at http://www.vagabond.bg http://www.vagabond.bg/being-happy-330#comments