Bulgaria, Macedonia: Rapprochement Through Literature

In my earlier GV article, Bulgaria, Macedonia: Blog Wars Over History, I outlined the contradictions between our two countries and their impact on the local blogosphere, which had become a kind of a battlefield for a never-ending blogging war. But it turned out that the Macedonian and Bulgarian bloggers are capable not only of constant enmity but also of cutting roads between the people in the two countries – which, for the time being, is quite hard for their governments.

Macedonian blogger Mecheto Ushko, disgusted at the pointless verbal crossfire between Bulgarians and Macedonians, laid the foundation of the initiative “With Literature, Against the Balkan Provincialism”:

What’s happening on Blogeray [Macedonian blogging platform] is no longer NATIONALISM, it is PROVINTIALISM.

[…]

Let’s make a brief retrospective.

At the outset it all started normally on Blogeray. As it should. There appeared a group of bloggers who started writing what they wanted to write. We live in the era of freedom of thinking and speech. Not a single word, not a single thought, is fearsome and dangerous as long as it does not hold in itself elements of hatred, genocide and intolerance. Each word spoken outside the street vocabulary is by itself sufficient for discussion and analysis.

There appeared a countergroup of bloggers sharing the same outlook and way of action in the reverse direction. There appeared that blog propaganda from OUR NEIGHBOUR (Bulgaria), that was condemned by every reasonable person – but it raised so much dust that it cannot settle and the clear perspective cannot reemerge.

The blog provincialism went on as a method of self-expression, a heap of semi-literates and simple thickheads, who went on spitting as far as they could, appeared. Nobody is capable of avoiding this regardless of where they are. This whole attitude is getting ridiculous, comical, farcical and commonplace. There is a blog with nearly 7,500 comments to a single post. I wonder who those people could be, who read and comment on such texts. But those are most often people who never read and who think even less.

There appeared a petition that called to the owner of this blog service (blog.com.mk) to ban access to all those who write stuff that they (the petitioners) dislike.

We are forgetting that the internet is a global medium and that practically it is very hard to censor or ban something. Leaning against the windows of their closed rooms, we are looking at only the part of the world that we can see when opening or closing the window. Where the horizon of this scope of visibility is, only thus far we can see. We do not want to look further ahead in the future and we have the computer in front of us. Isn’t that a paradox? With the internet you have the world on your palm and we do not want to look inside it. We do not want to accept the influence from the western democracies. We are looking at only the negative things, the positive seem not to exist. We are sealed in not only our own country but in our towns, a very parochial closure.

The whole thing is even more tragic, because this attitude is connived at by the liberal and intellectual circles of this Blogeray, who cannot accept the fact that the world has been changed and we remain all the same in a big waiting room where we wait to be accepted somewhere. Remember that all you do and you are done to remains. All that you are going to say or write. You cannot pretend that you do not see something which is in front of your very eyes. It is before you and you must fight to change it because (otherwise) you will leave it as a burden for your descendants.

Because of that in the next few days, as a reflection of my revolt against all this provincial-chauvinistic farce there will appear short stories by renowned Bulgarian writers and actors. Let us raise the voice of reason.

The voice of the cultured and well-educated person that can be stronger than the voice of the Balkan chauvinism.

This is the start of the new era, the era of LITERARY CHAUVINISM.

WITH LITERATURE, AGAINST THE BALKAN PROVINCIALISM.

Because the past cannot vanquish the present!

Because hatred cannot vanquish love!

A similar initiative on the Bulgarian side had already been undertaken by the Konstantin Pavlov. In a blog called “Lozari-Vinary” specifically made for the purpose, he introduced young Macedonian authors to the Bulgarian public. But Pavlov did not stop there. He was the first to publish on paper and at his own expense a contemporary Macedonian author. We are referring to Alex Boukarski – one of the most renowned young authors, publicists and bloggers. Boukarski has been awarded the literary debut price of Macedonia in 2006. His short stories and books are extremely popular with the younger generation of Macedonians. His blog is among the most authoritative ones and boasts one of the highest counts of visitors in Macedonia, and we will be justified to say that he is among the informal leaders of the blog community there. He has participated in a number of discussions about cultural and social problems. For a while he was an author with the Macedonian weekly “Nedelno vreme,” where he had a column on the problems of youth, culture and literature in Macedonia.

Although Boukarski and Pavlov differ in their views on a number of questions, between them there has developed a friendship that led to the appearance in Bulgarian of a debut collection of short stories by Boukarski titled “People whose parachute does not open.” The event attracted the attention of the Bulgarian blogging community. In some 40 of the most authoritative blogs in Bulgaria there appeared reactions and comments on the book’s promotion.

Blogger Peter Dobrev writes:

[…] Instead of muttering that there is no state called Macedonia and that the language spoken there is actually Bulgarian, we can try to get to know the Macedonia in question. To see what on Earth the people who live there could be like. And not like a nice student from the Varna Free University ask whether the people there are Christians. We might perchance make some cultural exchange and perchance get closer. Because no matter how common our roots are, they have become quite entangled.

So… every normal Bulgarian who is not obliged to be a historian but is interested in Macedonia, about which Slavi [famous Bulgarian showman] slips in dumb jokes, can see the book by Alex Boukarski “People whose parachute does not open.” The book is out in the Bulgarian market…

[…]

“People whose parachute does not open“ is precisely about the real life. In it there are no brave heroes, fair ladies, there is even no Boyko Borisov [Sofia’s mayor well-known for his macho behaviour and popular with the masses]. Inside the book are, however, neighbourhood drunks, wanker students, little gamer boys from the “Cyber” [internet café in Bitola], miserable little gypsies and menopause-stricken old bags. The language is lively, as colourful as you can hear it in the neighbourhood. In the original it is not even the literary Macedonian but rather the Bitola dialect. In the translation of Konstantin Pavlov the dialogue retains its brightness still not losing its savoury Macedonian flavour.

The book, the promotion and the author are all worth it.



Promo poster of the book

Image: http://komitata.blogspot.com

Indeed the book by Boukarski introduced to the Bulgarian audience an unfamiliar Macedonia. Thanks to it the external observer can orient in Macedonia’s present which otherwise remains inscrutable to them. That’s why it is no wonder that the presentation of the book had unprecedented success. In the crowded room, apart from university students, bloggers and literary authors, were representatives of a number of mainstream media. (Footage from the presentation in Bulgarian and Macedonian: Bukarski in Bulgaria 1,Bukarski in Bulgaria 2. Source: http://bukarski.blog.com.mk/)

The works by Boukarsky were highly praised by his Bulgarian colleagues. The renowned writer Bogdan Rousev writes that “at its best the prose by Boukarski is so raging and full-blooded as though it pressed to escape from the page and punch you in the nose.”

Of interest is the fact that the content of the book was licensed under the conditions of CC 2.5 – which had not happened in Bulgaria before. Maybe this step will be the start of a new era in the book distribution in Bulgaria, if other authors follow suit.

In the following days of Boukarsky’s stay, his interviews appeared in a leading printed media. The guest appeared on a number of well-known TV shows.

We can say that through his initiative Konstantin Pavlov contributed more to the improvement of the Bulgarian-Macedonian relations and the familiarization of the people in the two countries than the Bulgarian and Macedonian governments from the recent years.