Literature


Mihail Arnaudov

“When you love what you do and are aware of what can honour Bulgaria in the eyes of the world in any way, you are so enthused that neither time, nor efforts matter.”

Mihail Petrov Arnaudov is one of the brightest, most active and productive guardians and champions of the Bulgarian culture over the centuries, who devoted his life to Bulgaria and to the Bulgarian science. A scientist and a public figure, he spent decades on preserving the cultural and historical heritage of the nation by studying and describing the lives of a number of prominent Bulgarians; researching, collecting and publishing materials that keep alive the Bulgarian folklore; exploring and presenting traditions of ethnic Bulgarian societies. Mihail Arnaudov is a folklorist, literary historian and critic and ethnographer, who became a regular member of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, the Petyofi Hungarian Literary Academy and a Doctor Honoris Causa of the Universities of Heidelberg and Munster.

Early Years

Mihail Arnaudov was born in Rousse on October 5, 1878. His father was a Macedonian from Tetovo, who moved to Ruse and worked as a grain trader. He got married to his partner’s daughter, who died when Mihail was eight years old. His younger brother is the composer and operatic conductor and director Ilia Arnaudov. Mihail often accompanied his father in his trade tours in Northern Bulgaria and in this way got closely acquainted with the mindset of he village people who are the creators of folk poetry.

In 1895 he graduated the prestigious Kniaz Boris High School for boys in Rousse, where Nikola Bobchev was his teacher in Bulgarian language and literature. He awakened in Mihail the passion for literary studies, folklore and scientific research. In 1895 Mihail enrolled for the Slavonic philology specialty at the College of Sofia, where he attended classes lead by Ivan Shishmanov, Alexander Teodorov-Balan, Lyubomir Miletich and others. Ivan Shishmanov offered Mihail a scientific job and suggested to him to continue his studies at Leipzig University in Germany. Mihail spent 1898-1899 at Leipzig University, where he specialized in national psychology, Sanskrit and Lithuanian languages. In 1899 he enrolled at the University of Berlin. Until 1900 he attended classes in Indian literature, Indo-German comparative linguistics, Russian and Polish literature, and then returned to Rousse for a short period of time.

Professional Development and Scientific Research

In 1901 Mihail became a high school teacher in Sofia. He published articles in the Misal (Thought) magazine and came across the elite of Bulgarian writers who were extremely active and had established the Misal Literary Circle. In 1903, he went to Prague to take a doctoral exam on Slavic philology, philosophy and Indian philology and defended his dissertation based on his book Bulgarian Folk Tales.

He returned to Bulgaria and became a high school teacher, then a Deputy Director of the National Library and an Associate Professor at Sofia University. In 1910 he went to Paris to continue his scientific research and, there, he met and later became friends with one of the most acclaimed Bulgarian poets of all times, Peyo Yavorov. That same year he went to London for three months to study English. On the following year he returned to Bulgaria and held lectures at Sofia University. Shortly after that, he met his future wife, Stefanka, then got married to her in 1915 and later they had their three children.

From 1914 he was a visiting Professor and since 1919 a regular Professor at Sofia University. In 1921-1922 he was the Dean of the Faculty of History and Philology and in 1935-1936 he was a Rector of the University. In 1922 he was elected president of the Writers’ Union. In 1925, the publication of Bulgarian Misal magazine began, and in 1923 he became one of the main initiators for the establishment of the Macedonian Research Institute. In 1926 he became the Director of the National Theater. From 1918 he was a member of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and in 1929 he became a regular academician. He was elected a member of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, of the Petyofi Hungarian Literary Academy and was awarded the Honorary Doctor title at the Universities in Heidelberg (1936) and Münster (1943).

His favorite field of study was folk art. In 1905 he published Collection of Bulgarian Folk Tales and in 1913 the study Folklore from Elena (a Bulgarian town in the mountains). He consistently published works, studies, researches, and various other materials. He traveled by himself and became directly acquainted with folklore. In 1916 he visited Macedonia, his father’s home land for yet another folklore research.

He published more than 50 monographs about Neofit Bozveli, Vasil Aprilov, Miladinovi brothers, Georgi Rakovski, Lyuben Karavelov, Paisii Hilendarski and other Bulgarian Revival enlighteners. He also helped publish some works by Revival writers such as Georgi Rakovski, Neofit Bozveli and Grigor Parlichev, and published research papers on the lives of Peyo Yavorov, Kiril Hristov, Yordan Yovkov, Ivan Vazov, Ivan Shishmanov.

He is a member of the Svetlina (light) Masonic Lodge in 1928-1929. In 1929, Mihail Arnaudov joined the intellectuals who appealed for stopping the killings during the Macedonian internal disagreements within the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO). He was an editor of the Zarya magazine and Narodnost newspaper, where he was an open supporter of the idea that the population in the Vardar region was Bulgarian. From November 1932 he was a guarantor of friendship with the Great Masonic Lodge of the then Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic and Slovakia).

Public and Political Activity

In May 1944 Ivan Bagryanov invited Mihail Arnaudov to take part in his government with the words “Come to save Bulgaria”. Bagryanov‘s government lasted only 93 days, but made the decisions which helped stop the bombing of Sofia. As the Minister of Enlightenment (now Ministry of Education), Mihail Arnaudov made enormous efforts to restore the lessons in the schools which were cancelled due to the bombings. After the Ninth of September Coup lead by the communists in the same year, he was removed from all his academic positions, was then arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment by the so called People’s Court.

While he was behind bars, his book Psychology of the Literary Genius was translated into Russian and published in the Soviet Union. The book represents a unique scientific work which was highly regarded and recognized throughout Europe even since the time of its publication. At the end of 1945 a fellow Russian academician who specialized in Bulgarian literature and culture, Nikolai Derzhavin, arrived in Bulgaria. Upon realizing that the author of this psychological study was in prison, he contacted the Communist authorities, blamed them for ruining such a genius and, in the end, with his cooperation and after having spent two and a half years in prison, Mihail Arnaudov was released. While in custody, he continued to work – he translated French classics and prepared yet another edition of Ivan Vazov‘s essays.

After the amnesty, at the age of 68, Mihail Arnaudov found himself in the dire situation of having been deprived of his home by the Communists, with no job, deprived of income and with all his academic and scientific awards withdrawn by the totalitarian regime. Yet, he didn’t stop exploring and publishing scientific materials for the rest of his life, backed in the last 20 years by his daughter-in-law and personal assistant, Iskra Arnaudova.

Mihail Arnaudov died on February 18, 1978 in Sofia at the age of 99 years and 5 months.

Some Prominent Publications

  • Bulgarian Folklore Holidays (1918)
  • Krali Marco in the Folk Poetry (1918)
  • Studies on Bulgarian Orders and Legends (1920-1924)
  • Introduction to Literary Science. Tasks. History. Contemporary State. (1920)
  • Psychology of the Literary Genius (1931)
  • Excerpts on the Bulgarian Folklore (1934)
  • Artists of the Bulgarian Revival (1940)
  • The Life and Poetry of Ivan Vazov (1958)
  • Yavorov. Personality, Creativity, Destiny. (1961)
  • Poets and Heroes of the Bulgarian Revival (1965)
  • Verkovic and Veda Slovena (1968)

Sources

  1. United Grand Lodge of Bulgaria
  2. Fakel
  3. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
  4. Sofia University
  5. LiterNet
  6. Programata
  7. Bookpoint

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Dobri Nemirov

Today we are writing about Mr. Dobri Nemirov – Bulgarian writer and public figure, one of the founders of the short psychological narrative and the psychological novel in the Bulgarian literature, co-founder and chairman of the Union of the Bulgarian Writers in the period 1937-1940, founder of the pension fund at the Union of the Bulgarian Writers and of the Yordan Yovkov Fund which was established to support talented authors, member of a Masonic lodge. But before we go on, we want to make it clear that Dobri Nemirov was not born in Rousse. However, the years he spent in the city were formative and the author remained connected with the city until his last breath. And now, let’s start…

Behind the pen-name of Dobri Nemirov stood the person with the real name of Dobri Haralampiev Zarafov. Almost immediately after he was born in 1882 in the town of Tutrakan, his family moved and settled some 60 km west, in Rousse. And this became the reason why most of his biographers claim that Rousse is Nemirov’s birthplace. Here he studied at a seven-grade high school, but after completing the fifth grade, he had to quit his education. Being very poor, the family was no longer able to pay for the school and the boy began to work as a clerk. Although out of school, the boy started to educate himself and was much devoted to reading Bulgarian, Russian and Western classic authors.

Nemirov became known for his many talents which were further encouraged by his uncle Mitiu Petrov, who at the time was an actor and virtuoso player of many musical instruments in Bucharest. The boy had a strong interest in music and managed to learn how to write notes and play the violin while practicing on a friend’s same musical instrument. He also had an inkling to painting, making sculptures and being an actor. When the Victor Hugo theater circle was formed in Rousse in 1898, Dobri Nemirov was one of the first actors and frequently took part in designing the setting of the plays.

He first used his pseudonym in 1902 when he began publishing stories in periodic magazines in Rousse. In 1905 he moved to Sofia where he started collaborating with a number of progressive print media such as the Democratic Review, New Road, Bulgarian Collection, and many others. He published his first book called Stories in 1912 and quickly won his fame of a talented fiction writer. In 1913 Nemirov became a co-founder of the Union of the Bulgarian Writers.

The First World War and his service in the military print media Fatherland and Military Announcements mark the period of his maturing both as a person and creator. Under the influence of the Western philosophers Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and Wund, he began to create in his work deeply grounded characters whose fictitious fate was the result of tragically developed circumstances. In 1923 Nemirov wrote the poem Poor Luke which became his most famous work and was filmed in 1979.

Until 1918 he worked as a librarian at the Bulgarian Literary Society and the Ministry of Welfare. In 1925 with his cooperation in Rousse was established the House of Arts and Print Media and Nemirov was elected an honorary member. He was the founder and supervisor of the Studio theater. At that time, Nemirov, together with Dechko Uzunov, Elin Pelin and Assen Zlatarov, was also involved in the establishment of the Union of the Friends of Movies. He founded the pension fund at the Union of the Bulgarian Writers and in the period 1937-1940 was its chairman. He also founded the Yordan Yovkov Fund to help talented writers, the money for which he had been personally donated by his childhood friend Jacques Elias. He became a member of the Masonic lodge.

Nemirov was very popular for his time and many people were reading his books. Most of the critics regard his novels as a continuation of Ivan Vazov’s novels and his Brothers is considered to be the greatest pinnacle in the Bulgarian literature after Vazov’s Under the Yoke. In 1936, Nemirov was awarded the Cyril and Methodius’ Literary Prize by the Berlinov Fund for his overall creativity and he was only the third out of all Bulgarian writers together with Elin Pelin and Yordan Yovkov to win the prize. For one reason or another, however, some critics who were considered authoritative for their time seemed not to appreciate his talent and his name was not even mentioned by critic Panteley Zarev in his Panorama of Bulgarian Literature. However, Nemirov’s works were popular among people and his works were studied at school until the Communist coup in 1944.

It is said that Nemirov was an extremely intelligent man, a humanist with a subtle sense of humor, a sociable, witty, and desirable interlocutor. He supported the idea for cultural convergence between Bulgaria and Romania. In the early 1930s he visited the towns of Dobrich, Balchik, Kavarna, and Constanta in southern Dobrudja, which at that time was still under Romanian rule under the Thessaloniki agreement of 1918. There he met the local people and became the ambassador of Bulgarian culture among the population there.

Dobri Nemirov died in Sofia in 1945. Due to ideological reasons, after his death, despite his important contribution to the Bulgarian culture and along with many other Bulgarian writers and public figures at that time, he was ignored, deliberately neglected and eventually almost successfully forgotten.

But we remember and respect our public figures and our writers because we know that with their works they create our history, retell our past and create a mirror of the previous ages in which we have not lived and for which we cannot know firsthand. Each of them has helped us build our own self-consciousness, our sense of belonging as humans and Bulgarians, helped us to get to know and in this way preserve our culture to this very day. Because how else could we preserve something we do not know we ever had?

Sources

1. Part of Dobri Nemirov’s books available for free online (Bulgarian only)
2. Wikipedia
3. Lyuben Karavelov Regional Library, Rousse
4. PressTV
5. Interview with Dobri Nemirov (1930), Glasove Magazine
6. Svobodata.com
7. Lira
8. Liternet

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Zmei Gorianin

zmei2A brilliant writer, translator and editor with keen wit and encyclopaedic knowledge, Zmei Gorianin (the Dragon) is the author of over 50 books, including epigrams, historical novels, novellas and short stories, poems and tales for children. His life is filled with vicissitudes through which, however, he remains true to his principles.

Svetlozar Akendiev Dimitrov was born in Rousse on January 11, 1905. Although his family travels a lot, he graduates from the high school in the city. In 1926, he tries to set up a business in Rousse and hires a printing house. In 1927 he marries Sonya Dimitrova – an extremely intelligent and beautiful woman, whom he has known from school. Shortly after, the printing enterprise goes bankrupt and the family makes an unsuccessful attempt to move to Sofia, then again returns in Rousse, where Zmei Gorianin takes part in the publication of the Rousse News newspaper. In 1930 he and his wife move to the capital city of Sofia for good. He begins to write and publishes his works under many pen names among which the most famous is Zmei Gorianin. It is borrowed from Serbian writer Jovan Jovanovic Zmai.zmei1

Zmei Gorianin is a close friend of Elin Pelin. Their friendship is draws from the shared love for fishing and stamps. The two families are very close and meet each other frequently. It is believed that Elin Pelin is extremely fascinated by Sonya, Zmei Gorianin’s wife, and there are allegations as to the extent of their proximity. At the time, Sonya is considered a truly remarkable woman of which the love the artist Vasil Stoilov feels for her also speaks. When he paints her first out of a series of portraits, he falls deeply in love with her and his feelings stay with him until he dies years later.

In 1942 for a short period of time the writer becomes a censor at the Prinitng Directorate. After the coup d’état on September 9, 1944 and the advent of the Communist Party to power, he is accused by the People’s Court in 1945 that he had obstructed the publication of works by left-wing writers. Although this proves untrue, the People’s Court sentences him initially to five years in prison, but then reduces the term to one year because of his poor health. His books are added to the list of fascist literature and are seized from the libraries in the country.

zmei8When released from prison, Zmei Gorianin is not allowed by the Communist regime to publish any more. To win this opportunity back , some of Zmei Gorianin’s left-wing friends advise him to repent publicly, but he refuses to do so. In 1951 the author withdraws to the monastery called The Seven Thrones in the Vratsa Mountains. He spends there the last seven years of his life in creative isolation, dies in 1958 and is buried in the Monastery.

zmei6One of the consequences from the deliberate oblivion imposed on the writer by the Communist regime and the ban on his writings is that his works get published again not before 2000. It is then that some of his works reach the public for the first time. Others have been lost and are therefore unreleased even today.

Sources
1. Wikipedia
2. Pravoslavieto
3. Slovo
4. LiterNet
5. Fakel
6. Tema

The photos in the article are not owned by this website.

Elias Canetti

elias1The only Nobel prize laureate so far to be born and to have lived in Bulgaria comes from Rousse and was born on July 25 1905. Elias Canetti is the eldest of the three sons to Jacques Canetti and Matilda Arditi. His mother comes from one of the oldest Sephardic families in the country, who are also among the founders of the Jewish colony in Rousse in the late 18th century. The kin can be traced back to the 14th century when the ancestors worked as court physicians and astronomers at the Aragonese Royal Court of Alfonso IV and Pedro IV.

elias-allBy the age of six the family lives in Rousse, where Elias’ father and grandfather develop a successful production plant for umbrellas and also trade with glass, paints, varnishes, and other household goods. In 1911 the family moves to Manchester, where his father takes part in the family business there. In 1912 Jacques Canetti suddenly died. His mother was desolate and alone with the three children. She moved then first to Lausanne in Switzerland and then again to Vienna in Austria.

Besides the languages he already knows – Bulgarian, English and French, Elias learns German as well. In 1921 the family moves to Zurich and in 1924 to Frankfurt, where he graduates from high school. In 1924 he became a student in chemistry at the Vienna University to graduate with a doctorate in 1929.

elias-vezaIn 1934 he marries writer Veneciana (Veza) Taubner-Calderon, who is eight years older than him and is to become his muse and literary assistant. When Austria joined Nazi Germany and the persecutions of Jews began, the Canetti moved to Paris and then London to finally settle in Britain. Elias gets married a second time after Veza’s death and has a couple of affairs one of which with the Irish poet Iris Murdoch.

vezacanettiThough writing in German, in 1952 he receives UK citizenship and remaines in Britain until 1970. The last 20 years of his life he spends mainly in Zurich. There he writes his autobiography. Its first part published in 1977 is “The Tongue Set Free”, where he describes the first years of his childhood he spent in Rousse, then the time when the family moved to Britain, his father’s death and the subsequent relocation of the mother with the children in Switzerland.

1981 brings about the Nobel Prize for Literature for Lifetime Achievement “for writings marked by a broad outlook, a wealth of ideas and artistic power”. Apart from the Nobel prize, he received recognition by winning a number of other international awards.

canettiElias Canetti has been a sensitive boy and grew up to become an intuitive man. Rousse, where he spent his first childhood years, is colourful and dynamic with people of different backgrounds and from various cultures and he is exposed to variety of languages. The heavy loss of his father and the two world wars later on also affected his personality and marked his work. The main topics gradually to become characteristic of his works are fear, death, evil and power. Gradually, the writer shares the idea that death and evil are identical and represent one whole. Strong influence on his works have also Franz Kafka, Georg Büchner and the psychoanalytic school of Sigmund Freud.

The philosophical Crowds and Power is considered to be his masterpiece and is completed only in 1960. In it he uses the description of the elementary experience of being a part of a crowd to reveal the conditions and dynamics of the masses. As a result, he makes immersive conclusions about the mechanics of power, namely, that the crowds and power are inherently and constantly connected.

In 1994 Elias Canetti dies in Zurich. His works are translated into 25 languages.

Recognition in Bulgaria

In 2005 in Rousse is established the Elias Canetti national literary prize.

During the first international conference in Bulgaria in 1992, which was dedicated to the works of the writer, in Rousse is set up the Elias Canetti International Society.

The building where the family lived before the Canetti leave for Manchester is preserved.

The commercial building used by the family business is used by the Elias Canetti International Society under the name The Canetti House.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the writer, in 2005 in Rousse a memorial plaque on the eponymous square is inaugurated.

The Vocational School of Economics and Management in Rousse adopted the name of Nobel Prize winner.

In 2004 one of the Antarctic peaks is named after Canetti.

Quotes

Everything that I later experienced had already happened once in Ruschuk.

It is only in a crowd that man can become free of this fear of being touched.

It is for the sake of this blessed moment when no one is greater or better than another that people become a crowd.

Sources

1. Nobelprize.org
2. Wikipedia
3. Kafka through the Eyes of Elias Canetti by Ventseslav Konstantinov
4. The First Window – Elias Canetti – Rousse 1/3
5. The First Window – Elias Canetti – Rousse 2/3
6. The First Window – Elias Canetti – Rousse 3/3
7. Elias Canetti… from Rousse

The photos in the article are not owned by this website.

Michael Arlen

by Bassano, half-plate glass negative, 8 December 1930

by Bassano, half-plate glass negative, 8 December 1930

An extremely talented and internationally distinguished writer from the beginnign of 20the century, Michael Arlen is was born in Rousse as Dikran Kouyoumdjian in November 1885 to an Armenian merchant family who had emigrated to Rousse because of persecutions of Armenians within the Ottoman Empire.

His mother comes from the wealthy Armenian Aslanian family who trade with tobacco and wool predominantly with English enterprises. She is a highly educated woman, who plays the piano, speaks an excellent French and is keen on reading owning a library full of classic novels. She is also the one to take care of the small boy’s education and to trigger his passion for literature.

During these years the family business thrives and grows. The parents decide to send Dikran to England to study so that he is able to lead the English branch of the family enterprise later on. At the age of six in 1901 Dikran leaves for the Island, graduates a state school and is admitted to the St Andrews College in Scotland. arlen2

While he is at college, the family business takes a steep downfall and goes bankrupt. As a result, Dikran quits college, settles in London, starts to write to make ends meet and adopts the prn name of Michael Arlen.

In the beginning he writes for newspapers and magazines. His first novel The London Venture, which is description of his life up to that moment, comes out in 1920. In 1921 his first collection of short stories called The Romantic Lady is published. In 1922 he acquires a British citizenship and adopts Michael Arlen as his official name.

His novel The Green Hat is out in 1924. It is considered to be his masterpiece, becomes an instant success. The Green Hat is later on dramatized and presented at the West End’s Adelphi Theatre, then adapted for cinema and filmed in 1928 starring Greta Garbo in the lead role.

Mrs. Michael Arlen (formerly Countess Atlanta Mercati) wearing dark-colored knit dress with long sleeves, pleated hem, and contrasting collar; sitting in a chair

Mrs. Michael Arlen (formerly Countess Atlanta Mercati)

During this period of his life Michael Arlen is socially very active. Among his friends are Hemingway and Francis Scott Fitzgerald. Often critics liken Arlen’s writing to Fitzgerald’s due to the multi-layer protagonists both depict. In 1928 Michael Arlen marries Countess Atlanta Mercati from whom he has a son and a daughter. Upon the outbreak of the Second World War the family moves to the United States and the Arlen becomes one of the most sought after scriptwriters in Holywood. He also writes horror stories and Alfred Hitchcock integrates some of them into his movies.

In 1956 at the age of 60 Michael Arlen dies in New York.

Resources:
1. BG Traces
2. European Culture Centre in Rousse
3. Wikiwand
4. Wikipedia

The photos in the article are not owned by this website.