The remarkable Romanian literature and its Bulgarian translations
Hristo Boev was born in Plovdiv. He graduated in English philology at the Paisii Hilendarski University of Plovdiv. In 2013 he defended his Ph.D. research in British and American literature at Ovidius University, Constanta, Romania, on “Modern (ist) Portrayals of the City in Dickens and Dos Passos: Similarities, Differences, Continuities.” In 2020 he published a monograph on “The Different Dobrudja in the interwar literature.” He has participated in international conferences on topics such as: “literary urbanism”, “translation issues”, “immigration and relocation” and others. His research interests are in the field of new British and American literature, Romanian literature between the wars, geocriticism, literary urbanism, as well as comparative literature. He teaches British and American literature at the University of Sofia “Bishop Konstantin Preslavski”. He is the winner of the translation award of the Liviu Rebranu Literary Museum (2016) and of Media AwART Varna (2020) for his translation of Cella Serghi’s Spider Web. He has translated a number of classical and contemporary novels from Romanian into Bulgarian.
This article was published on January 17, 2021 on the site “The Urban Magazine”.
When did your interest in Romanian language and literature start, given that English is your first major?
Back in 2004, when I was in Bucharest and discovered that I understood Romanian through my knowledge of French and English. I became convinced that this was the case after I spoke French and received meaningful answers in Romanian, thus getting along with older people, while younger people understood and spoke English even then. It seemed to me a very melodic language and I wanted to speak it. I later became convinced that I was right in my feelings when I lived in Montreal and listened to Romanian around me quite often. I taught English to Romanians, French and Russians at a language center. When I returned to Bulgaria, I was sure I wanted to learn it well. My interest in Romanian literature came a little later when I began preparing for the presentation of my doctoral project at Ovid University, Constanta. I have always been convinced that language is learned very well by reading books, and, as usual, when learning a language – a philological approach, I combined the other more standard ways of learning with reading books. I was amazed by the huge and very interesting literature that unfolded before me. In order not to drown in this sea, I made every effort to understand as much as possible and also I consulted with the friends from Romania..
Who was the first Romanian author you translated into Bulgarian?
Garabet Ibrălianu with his classic novel Adela. A very lyrical text that won many fans in Bulgaria through my translation.
What time period does the chronologically translated Romanian novels cover?
As editions from 1925 to 2020, as a period considered in the texts – from 1907 to the present day.
If such a summary can be made, are there any general, specific topics that excite Romanian authors whose work you know?
I know in detail all the Romanian literature between the wars – all their great classics, and I think I have a pretty good idea of contemporary literature and its authors. The common theme is, as I have said elsewhere, what is called “the human condition” in English – the existence of man on earth, the salvation of his soul as a resistance to the difficulties that come from the age, the survival of the individual in an often hostile society. in difficult living conditions. Romanian novels are based on the remarkable tradition of Romanian modernism, all authors are familiar with French and Russian classics and their contemporaries, but also know well the work of Mihai Eminescu, whose romantic inclinations and unique style, as well as modernists later, create a very serious literary tradition with highly developed critical thinking – a fertile foundation for intelligent, warm and very human literature. Many typical Bulgarian themes can also be found there, which makes this literature, along with the topos that are affected, a Balkan literature as well.
Why wasn’t Cella Serghi’s novel translated into Bulgarian earlier? Is there any other reason for this, except that perhaps none of the Bulgarian translators from Romanian has shown interest?
Serghi’s novel was published originally in 1938 and made a great impression on the readers in Romania. It was published with the recommendation of Liviu Rebranu, Camil Petrescu and Mihail Sebastian, but Serghi did not send a copy of her novel to George Călinescu, respectively she was omitted as a writer in his remarkable critical work. for the Romanian literature “History of Romanian Literature: From the Beginning to the Present” (1941), which is fundamental to the literary criticism created later. Thus, Serghi’s novel remains a favorite of readers, but not critically supported – this may be the reason for the omission of Bulgarian translators in the 60’s and 70’s, when many Romanian classics were translated. A huge omission not only of Călinescu, as it turns out.
What can the Bulgarian readers learn about Bulgaria from this book?
They can learn a lot! First, it is a very atmospheric novel about the period between the wars, which partly concerns the First World War. The author has Bulgarian roots, which contributes to the undisguised sympathy for Bulgaria and the Bulgarian people. There are very strong moments in this direction, when the war in which Romania finds itself against Bulgaria is condemned. Life in Bucharest is reproduced in an exceptional way. The descriptions made by the author of Balchik are probably the best in all world literature about this city. The novel is also very psychological, with lively, intelligent language, with a certain modernist experimentalism in terms of composition, colors, flow of consciousness.
What is Romania doing to encourage the translation of Romanian literature into Bulgarian and what is Bulgaria doing to encourage the translation of Bulgarian literature into Romanian?
Romania has a policy to promote its literature worldwide – the Bulgarian language is just one of many to which it is translated annually. I’m not sure if Bulgaria is doing anything specific to translate Bulgarian works into Romanian, but I repeat, Romania has a policy of distributing its literature around the world, not only and not specifically in Bulgarian.
What are the other books by Romanian authors that you have translated and that you are currently translating and should be published?
I have translated 21 novels, among which I would single out as exceptional in addition to Serghi’s novel the following already published: from the classics – “Adela” by Garabet Ibrălianu, “Dona Alba” and “The Russian” by Gib Mihaescu, “Adam and Eve” by Liviu Rebranu , “The Accident” and “The Town with the Acacia Trees” by Mihail Sebastian; of the modern ones – “Life begins on Friday”, “The future begins on Monday” and “The innocents” by Ioana Pârvulescu, “Defect” by Florin Irimia, “Crook Ltd.” by CG Balan. In my translation, Liviu Rebranu’s “Embers”, CG Balan’s “The Elevator” – his second novel, as well as “Mortus est” by Hossu Longin will be published. The last two are my peers.
We can’t help but get to the question of book distribution – how do you deal with that?
Book distribution in our country is in a miserable state, I’m not even sure that this word characterizes it well enough. In a city like Dobrich, for example, as far as I know, there is only one working bookstore, I’m not sure if it works at the moment. Along with online commerce, books also reach their readers through online orders. However, you don’t have the feeling of looking at books in bookstores. Many of us, including myself, have experienced so many pleasant moments, this is not available for us yet. People need books as much as bread, especially in these times.
Photo: The two most recent books, which result from Hristo Boev’s activity were published by publishing house Nordian (source: The Bridge of Friendship)
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