Houses Without Roofs

Stoyanov, Nikolai
Revista Literatures Núm. 3 1999

The houses that my son drew when he was small had no roofs because, he said, the builders had not had time to finish them. This syndrome of the "unfinished" is a characteristic common to all the nations which comprise the Balkans, One must add to this the propensity of the Bulgarians to make fun of their own weak spots, but if a stranger dares to do so they become furious. One must specify, then, that the ironic self-portrait is a strategy of their character in order to excuse their own deficiencies.
Like it or not, the ethnic mixes, the historical periods experienced in common, customs and rites are endlessly juxtaposed and, all together, they ensure that the boundaries of national authenticity, that singularity of a people which is the leavening of any great literary event, are very blurred. This image, at once so comfortable and obsessive, has undergone a metamorphosis over time: from being a literary matter, it has become a problem which the literary traditions of the different Balkan nations have been obliged to confront. Again, the restrictions of censorship have obliged literary creators to seek veiled and ambiguous forms, and also to create without ever departing from the well-defined spiritual spaces of their native lands.
In the terrain of Bulgarian literature, Yordan Raditshkov and Nikolai Haytov are outstanding, these two authors rediscovering themselves in the language and both choosing the short form of literary creation: in narrative and the short story. In the historical domain, we find Anton Dontchev and Guentcho Stoev, who devote their most celebrated novels to the Turkish rule in Bulgaria and, above all, to the policy of forced assimilation to the Islamic religion. Other unforgettable works which portray modern man, the absurdity of despotism, the sufferings of the shackled spirit and lost identity are those of Victor Paskov, Dimitar Korudgiev, Rachko Sougarev, and Vlado Daverov.
The Bulgarian mentality is characterised by respect for difference. We have given as a legacy to Western civilisation some of the most beautiful myths and legends ever created by the human imagination. We have also offered the inquietudes which turn the cogs of life and literary creation. Now it is time for us to turn and look to each other for mutual enrichment with our different artistic universes. We feel the need to converse, using the most tolerant language of them all, the easiest to understand: art. Our vocation obliges us to try to know ourselves, to try to decipher ourselves. In short, we need to put roofs on our houses so that they will never again be invaded by any kind of storm.