I wonder if it is possible for Europeans (let alone Brits) to begin to put their head around how countries such as Bulgaria, Poland and Romania have suffered, in different ways, since 1939??
At least Poland had its various strands of resistance to be proud of.
And Romania its various emblems of modernity – visible in its architecture, inventors, writing or painting (to some of which I paid tribute earlier this year in my E-book on the country – Mapping Romania).
Indeed, as I was drafting this post, I was sent a poem from a poet – Mariana Marin – reckoned to be one of the best of modern poets and akin, in her power, to Sylvia Plath.
I hurry toward death
without a purpose,
without a wedding gown,
without a dowry of gold.
Serene and bitter,
I hurry across my native land
As if tomorrow had already been.
Needless to say – despite my love of Romanian poets such as Marin Sorescu and Ana Blandiana, I had never heard of Marin (who died in 2003).
But Bulgaria is small – with its back between the Danube and the Balkan/Rhodope mountain ranges – almost invisible……save, that is for its tourism – at the Black Sea and skiing resorts……
But it does have some people who have the skills and energy to project the country….particularly its artistic community – to whose early 20th century (realist) painters I devoted a small book a couple of years ago
Earlier this year year I mentioned Ivan Daraktchiev’s amazing Bulgaria: Terra Europeansis Incognita - 600 pages of superb photographs and challenging text about the history (ancient and recent) of the country. Ivan doesn’t pull his punches as you will see from the next post…….
And yesterday I visited the Neron Gallery whose owner, Rumen Manov, is one of the best dealers in older Bulgarian paintings - to discover that he has just published a large 700-page celebration of some 2000 cultural artefacts and photographs from his own personal collection - in A Fairy Tale about Bulgaria. The Intro puts it eloquently -
We the people of this piece stretch of land called Bulgaria are not the end of Europe, hidden somewhere in the end of the world – we are one of the oldest European civilizations. In our history there are thousands purposefully forgotten dates and events. But although quite destroyed, surviving documents speak eloquently and impartially. We Bulgarians love our ancient and beautiful land and this book is an attempt to remember the bright, timeless and eternal values………
I wanted to do something that is not an encyclopaedia, not an album , not almanac not historical guide or reference book. It was like a seed in the ground. When he started to grow this idea in my mind I could see the colours of the book, as I started to build in time things so hesitated that year - two, long before I finish the book, I had the idea for it. What I saw was difficult for me to explain it to people who work with me….. then they told me that such a thing is not possible. This genre - no, moreover, that this is a job for an Institute not an individual. But the book is my witness to many survivors and their fathers, grandfathers -some of them departed from this world, things scattered in their markets and antiquarians.
I salute such people who, against the odds, are determined to remind locals of their heroes and traditions - however politically incorrect it may be these (stupid) days........