5 December, 2023
Hristo Boev among students at the Bucharest University (photo: Hristo Boev)

An interview with the Bulgarian translator of Romanian literature


Hristo Boev was born in Plovdiv. He has graduated from the Plovdiv University „Paisii Hilendarski“ with a degree in English philology. Boev is a lecturer in English, Romanian and French. He is a Ph.D. holder specialized in comparative American and English literature at the Ovidius University in Constanta. He teaches English literature at the Shoumen University “Konstantin Preslavski”. At the end of 2019 the literary network “Traduki” organized, together with the National Museum of Romanian Literature and Headsome Communication, two residences in Bucharest for translators and writers. Out of the candidates from Albania, Bosna and Herzegovina, Northern Macedonia, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro the Bulgarian translator Hristo Boev and the Slovenian writer Urosh Prah were approved for the residencies.

This article was published on 27th January 2020 on the Bulgarian cultural site “Svidetelstva.bg”. It is republished here with the permission of Svidetelstva.

Mr. Boev, how would you describe your stay in Bucharest under the literary network Traduki program?

It was very interesting, pleasant and beneficial. I lived at the Revolution Square, very close to the Victoria Avenue and the remarkable old buildings of the mythological boulevard. I was able to meet lots of writers. I had many opportunities for pleasant walks and felt sufficiently inspired to translate yet another Romanian novel into Bulgarian.

The heart of Bucharest is…

The city boasts loads of pleasant nooks and crannies, so it is difficult to say. I suppose everyone can find a place to his/her own liking. I consider as such places the parks Cismigiu and Herastrau or perhaps the Eden Garden, which is also located close to Victoria Avenue.

What did you work on?

I translated from Romanian into Bulgarian Mihail Drumesh’s novel Invitation to the Waltz. I also participated in the literary life of the city while attending certain events organized by the National Museum of Romanian Literature.

Tell us about your presentation at the Faculty of Balkan Studies of the Bucharest University!

The presentation was organized by Traduki and the National Museum of Romanian Literature with the cooperation of the Faculty of Balkan Studies. I was pleasantly surprised to see teachers of Bulgarian literature who are Romanians and speak excellent Bulgarian. Many students were present at the presentation, but there were no Bulgarians among them. I liked it a lot that they showed great interest in the Bulgarian language and literature. I presented my activities as a translator of Romanian literature and the activities of my publishing house Nordian which deals with the promotion of quality literature in translation. The students and their professors asked me questions in Romanian because the former didn’t feel confident enough to speak in Bulgarian despite their desire to do so.

You have translated 18 novels from Romanian into Bulgarian. What attracts you to the Romanian literature? Does it have a connection to ours?

The major attraction for me lies in the fact that it portrays the human soul, that it is sincere, has a modern outlook, even when it was written in the interbellum period. I don’t know another literature that does this so well. One can easily associate oneself with a character from a Romanian book. It is a literature in which the distance between the reader and the literary character is minimal, especially when the reader comes from the Balkans. There is a certain connection between the two in terms of the attitude towards life related to common experience in both literatures. Romanian literature is predominantly an urban literature, where writers such as a Camil Petrescu with his war novel The Last Night of Love, the First Night of War sound close to Dimitar Dimov’s Lieutenant Bentz. There is closeness between some works by Liviu Rebreanu, e.g. Ion and some works by Elin Pellin and Emilian Stanev. There could be found some similarities between urban poets with a penchant for symbolism such as Bacovia and Smirnenski. Sofia and Bucharest have received amazing revelatory depictions in both poets.

On the whole, the similarities are mostly found in the interwar period when both Bulgaria and Romania had their most distinguished writers. As far as contemporary literature is concerned, there are not many similarities. Contemporary Romanian writers excel at portraying and criticizing the present. They are able to put it in the foreground and give it the necessary emphasis. This is what escapes the Bulgarian writers. Inasmuch as they can connect to the present, they resurrect time and again the figure of the ubiquitous Bai Ganio (the incarnation of the ever-present oriental Bulgarian – note of the translator) – e.g. Mission London by Alek Popov.

Even though he continues to be a character of the present indeed, the writers miss the tragedy of the Bulgarian people caught in the never-ending transition period, without many grounds for optimism. From this standpoint, the Romanian authors in translation could be very beneficial for the Bulgarian writers.

Read in Romanian language!

Read in Bulgarian language!

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