by Rayko Baychev (BG); translated from the Bulgarian by Angela Rodel photography by Anthony Georgieff
This issue presents texts by the 2011 Sozopol Fiction Seminars fellows Michael Hinken and Rayko Baychev
The Elizabeth Kostova Foundation 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.
Rayko Baychev was born in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria. He is 24 years old. He holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Sofia and is currently pursuing an MA in Arts and Modernity at the same university.
He has been awarded first prize in several literary contests, the most important of which was the award he won for his play The Gadulka is Burning at Theater Sofia. This one-man show was also nominated for the Ikar Award for best drama.
If they tell you there's no instrument more thankless than the gadulka, you better believe it. There isn't.
Although I doubt anybody would ever tell you that, since modern people could hardly care less about the gadulka and their lives often pass with nary a word about it. In fact, people have a rather hazy idea of the gadulka. They've got similar ideas about words like "plow," "sheaf" and "thresher" – that is, something of rural origin, but they're not quite sure what. For that reason, they're usually satisfied with the explanation that the gadulka is "something like a violin" and leave it at that, figuring they don't need to know more. And of course, they don't need to know more. The only sure thing in life is that you can live it out well and good without ever finding out just what kind of instrument the gadulka is.
I've been playing the gadulka a long time now and I can't say that I'm particularly happy. I've been a gadulka player for 18 years and I can openly declare that happiness and the gadulka are two mutually exclusive things. The gadulka just isn't meant to bring happiness to modern people. The piano – yes. The guitar – yes. The flute – debatable, but yes. The gadulka, however, brings unhappiness both to the one playing it and to those listening to it.
Gadulka shame, for example, is something that every gadulka player secretly suffers from. The problem is that you're constantly running up against people's lack of comprehension. If you've got a guitar, they're usually squealing all around you, jumping up and down ecstatically – hey look, a guitar, come on, play something for us!, while the sight of the gadulka alone sends them into a panic, they look at you defensively and ask what it is. Their eyes say: "please put it back in the case." And you've got to spend a long time explaining that this is a gadulka, a Bulgarian folk instrument – and you sound like you're apologizing for disturbing them. In the end, they finally make you play something, but the second you start playing, some primitive horror flickers in their pupils and you yourself start feeling horrified both by yourself and the gadulka; and the only way to save the situation is to start playing some popular tune, say, "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" or "Ode to Joy." Then their eyes brighten up, they breathe a sigh of relief and they might even start humming along. But when all's said and done, no matter what they do, you're always left with the feeling that you're an outsider and somehow not quite right in the head, since out of all possible instruments you went and started playing this one.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers