Bulgarian Poetry in English Translation (III/1): the period 1944-1989 – Konstantin Pavlov

Konstantin Pavlov was one of the most important and gifted Bulgarian poets of the period after 1944. His immense talent and poetic imagination, and his independent personality brought him in frequent conflict with the Communist regime. Fortunately, two of his poetry collections are available in English: Cry of a Former Dog (translated by Ludmilla G. Popova-Wightman, Ivy Press Princeton 2000) and Capriccio for Goya (also translated by Ludmilla G. Popova-Wightman, Ivy Press Princeton 2003). Pavlov’s first books were confiscated before they could reach bookstores and readers. After that, he was officially sentenced to silence for his courageous depiction of the terror in his country.

Pavlov’s poetry, stylistically innovative, is a moral protest against the totalitarian dictatorship in Bulgaria from 1944 to 1989. Many of Pavlov’s poems contain also satirical elements, irony and humor, despite the serious conditions in which he lived and the suffocating intellectual atmosphere from which authors like him suffered a lot. Some samples from the two books can be found here and here.

Pavlov Cry of a Former Dog

About the English editions of Pavlov, Paul Auster writes:

“Ludmilla Popova-Wightman’s translations of Pavlov have a lovely open-hearted vernacular feel to them. They have truly been rendered into American English.”

Don’t miss the chance to discover a truly great poet in excellent translations!


Thomas Hübner

Konstantin Pavlov

Konstantin Pavlov was one of the leading modern poets in Bulgaria. Born in 1933 in Vitoshko, a village near Pernik. His first two books, Satires (1960) and Poems (1965), were confiscated by the authorities before they reached the public. For more than twenty years, Pavlov was banned from publishing and his poems circulated only clandestinely (Samizdat) in privately copied form. At the end of the seventies, the communist apparatchiks relented somewhat and allowed him to write screenplays for the state film industry (but no poetry). Several of his screenplays were realized and in 1980 he was granted the Grand Prix at the Karlovy Vary film festival for his screenplay of the film “Illusion.” In 1983, on his fiftieth birthday, Old Things, his third volume—screenplays and poems—appeared. It provoked another ban that lasted until the fall of communism in 1989, after which he was finally able to publish nine volumes of poetry and five plays. His collected works in four volumes appeared in 2002. Pavlov died 2008 in Sofia.


Ludmilla G. Popova-Wightman is a Bulgarian language educator and translator. She was born in Sofia in 1933. After graduating from Sofia University in 1956, she worked at the National Library and was for several years editor of the Bulgarian Encyclopedia. She worked as a research associate in Moscow (1958-65) and as a lecturer at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey (1969-70). Since 1977 she lives permanently in the United States and has lived and worked in Princeton. She has, among others, translated poetry by Konstantin Pavlov, Blaga Dimitrova, Danila Stoianova, Alexander Shurbanov and Edvin Sugarev. Many of her translations have been published in leading American literary journals, such as The New York Review of Books, The Partisan Review, The Literary Review, Poetry East, Visions International, and in the anthology Shifting Borders: East European Poetry of the Eighties (Edited by Walter Cummins, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1992). Popova-Wightman is also the owner of Ivy Press Princeton, a publishing house exclusively devoted to Bulgarian poetry in English translation.


Thomas Hübner is a German-born economist and development consultant with a life-long passion for books. He lives in Chisinau/Moldova and Sofia/Bulgaria. He is also the co-founder of Rhizome Publishing in Sofia, and translates poetry, mainly from Bulgarian to German (most recently Vladislav HristovGermanii, Rhizome 2017). He is blogging at Mytwostotinki on books and anything else that interests him.

Photo credits: BNR; Ivy Press Princeton; Cornelia Awear

This blog post is part of #BulgarianLiteratureMonth.

The previous parts of this article:

Part I: Bulgarian Poetry in English Translation: Anthologies

Part II: Bulgarian Poetry in English Translation: the pre-1944 period

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