Has every literary road trip you’ve taken involved highways in your own country?
Bulgarian novelist Angel Igov has written a short adventure of 145 pages that will
make a reader feel they are on summer vacation even if its the dead of winter.
Interestingly, this road trip takes place across the Balkan roads of Bulgaria,
Thrace, and the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. The title of the book is A Short
Tale of Shame.
Boril Krustev is a successful businessman with an empty life. Having recently lost
his wife, he gets in the car aimlessly and starts driving toward the sea without a
plan. The emptiness of Boris’ relationships in his three-person family (with his
former wife and daughter Elena), are a perfect foil for the intimacy, youth, and
vigor of the three hitchhikers he picks up as he drives. Without any plans of his
own, Boris is easily absorbed into their plans. The hitchhikers, three teenagers
named Spartacus, Sirma, and Maya, feel safe bringing him along as he is the hip
musician father of a girl they know, Elena.
Angel Igov’s strength in this story is strong character development that makes his
protagonist’s seem real. Here’s an example, Igov’s description of the young teenager
Spartacus dug into his pocket and found only a small coin, it wasn’t even enough for
ice cream, so he raised his arm and chucked it far into the river: cars whizzed past
on both sides of the bridge, it was noisy and he didn’t hear it splash into the
river, but he told himself, okay, now I don’t have a single cent in my pocket, and
he felt an incredible rush of freedom. He spent three days like that, until the next
installment from his parents, of course, that was easy at seventeen, who you really
need to buy, when it comes to beer in the park, there was always someone willing to
cough up cash for it instead of you, and if nobody does, then you go without beer,
but despite that for those three days he completely consciously lived the joy of the
penniless, looknig to spend most of his time out and about, wandering through the
streets, looking in the shop windows and feeling pride and relief that he could not
buy himself anything whatsoever, not even a bottle of water. He knew, with that
knowledge which stands in the corner like a heavy block of stone that you can’t
budge, that those three days would never repeat themselves. The older he got, the
more doomed he was to earn money and spend it, spinning his toothy gears in the
machine of exchange, grinding coins in his molars.
It’s fun to follow all four on their adventure because it is impossible to know
where the author is taking the reader. Four people at an unusual moment in their
life, a moment of transition, experience the companionship of travels. It’s unlikely
they will ever forget the trip.
This novel was a co-winner of the 2012 contemporary Bulgarian Writers Contest. In
English, it has been lovingly published by Open Letter Press, an industry leader in
showcasing literature in translation.
Angel Igov is a Bulgarian writer, literary critic, and translator. He graduated from Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, and specialized at the University of Roehampton, London and at the University of California, Berkeley, with a Fulbright scholarship. Scholar of the International Halma Program (2010). Angel has published two collections of short stories (Meetings at the Road, 2002, and K., 2006), the first of which won the Southern Spring award for debut fiction, while the second was nominated for the Elias Canetti Award. He is also the author of three novels; Krotkite (The Meek One’s) was nominated for six literary awards and won the Hristo G. Danov Prize, the most prestigious award in this field in Bulgaria. This book was also the probably most reviewed book by a Bulgarian author after the transition. Angel Igov has also translated among others books by Paul Auster, Martin Amis, Angela Carter, John Banville and Ian McEwan into Bulgarian. He was five times nominated for the Krastan Dyankov Award for translation of the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation and won the Award in 2017 for his translation of Jeremy Page’s The Collector of Lost Things. He teaches literature and translation at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”.
Angela Rodel is a professional literary translator living and working in Bulgaria. She holds a B.A. from Yale and an M.A. from UCLA in linguistics. She received a 2014 NEA translation grant for Georgi Gospodinov’s novel The Physics of Sorrow (Open Letter 2015), as well as a 2010 PEN Translation Fund Grant for Georgi Tenev’s short story collection Holy Light – the first time a Bulgarian-language work has received either award. Her translation of Physics of Sorrow won the National Book Center’s 2015 Peroto Prize for best translation from Bulgarian, the 2016 AATSEEL Prize for Best Book of Literary Translation, and was nominated for the three most prestigious translation awards in the US: finalist for the 2016 PEN Translation Prize, the 2016 National Translation Award from the American Literary Translators Association, and Three Percent’s Best Translated Book Award for 2016. Angela’s translations of Milen Ruskov’s novel Thrown into Nature (2011), Zachary Karabashliev’s 18% Gray (2013) and Angel Igov’s A Short Tale of Shame (2013) and Georgi Tenev’s Party Headquarters (2015) have been published by Open Letter Books thanks to support from the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation. The UK publishing house Istros Books published her translation of Virginia Zaharieva’s novel Nine Rabbits in 2012, which was re-released by Black Balloon in the US in 2014. Her translation of the classic Bulgarian novel The Wolf Hunt by Ivaylo Petrov will be published in spring 2017 by Archipelago Books. Her translation of Ivan Dimitrov’s play, The Eyes of Others, was performed at the Ohio Theater in New York City in September 2012. Her poetry and prose translations have also appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies, including McSweeney’s, Little Star, Ploughshares, Granta.org, Two Lines, and Words Without Borders, among others. In 2014, she was awarded Bulgarian citizenship for her translation work and contribution to Bulgarian culture.
Karen Van Drie is an American expat librarian working in Istanbul, Turkey. She is on
Twitter at @worldlibraries. She also hosts a bilingual celebration of reading
culture at @EnSonNeOkudun. In her free time, Karen writes her own blog called
Empty Nest Expat.