Bulgarian Posts

Interview with Bulgarian writer Georgi Bardarov

(C) EU

This interview is facilitated by EUPL and funded by the European Union. 

I am posting snippets of my correspondence with Georgi as it would give readers an insight into how powerful his writing is.

Thank you for writing the books that you have written. It has not been an easy task reading your writing. I made many false starts. Extraordinarily, I would read the words on the page and none of it would make sense. Then I began reading around it and kept trying at different parts of the day to read your work, hoping I would begin to understand it. Finally, the breakthrough happened. I do not know what it was or was it that simply I had to zone in as a reader into the mind space that you were demanding as a writer. It has been so hard. More so, because you are writing about conflict. Despite your sentences being short and crisp. Descriptions being precise. It is incredibly hard to read the texts at first. It is obvious from the little that I have read of your work in translation that your contribution to contemporary European literature is extremely crucial. It is almost as if it is a sobering reminder that the horrors of conflict wrought upon societies are cyclical, history tends to repeat itself. And with that, the impact on mankind, local societies, triggering migrations, and the spin-off effect upon other communities and nations is a situation that is constantly in flux. Your writing does make the reader pause and reflect. Is any of this conflict worth this suffering and distress? Nevertheless, thank you for what you have written so far. I sincerely wish that there were more of your interviews and conversations available in English on the Internet. I barely found any information except for a quote or two.

Let’s hope we can rectify it. 


Thank you very much for your frank words about my book and for your interest. Your questions were very meaningful and it was a pleasure to answer them. I am sending them to you as an attachment. I understand that you had a hard time with my books and thank you for being patient and reading them, when I wrote them it was also very hard for me, I have painfully experienced every one of them. I have visited each of the places I write about and talked to people who have experienced or been affected by the conflicts. I heard stories so shocking that some of them I can’t even repeat to my closest person, these stories changed me forever and will stay with me like a wound that will never heal. Yes, there is little information about me in English, but keep in mind that it is almost impossible for a writer from a small country like Bulgaria to be noticed outside his country, that’s why Georgi Gospodinov’s success is spectacular and I am very happy for him.

Warm greetings from cold, winter Bulgaria!



Georgi Bardarov is a Bulgarian scientist and writer. He is an Associate Professor of Ethno-Religious Conflicts and Demography, a Vice-Dean of the Geology & Geography Department in University of Sofia. He founded and co-hosts the most successful course for the art of public speaking and oratory skills in Bulgaria. A member of the board of the Bulgarian Petanque Federation. He is part of the creative team of the publishing and production company Musagena, which aims to find talented contemporary writers and artists. In 2015, Georgi Bardarov won the first intellectual reality TV show for writers called The Manuscript which awarded him with the publication of his debut novel – I am still counting the days. The book is based on a true story about the love between a Bosnian Muslim and Christian Serb amidst the siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian war.

Georgi Bardarov is the winner of the Pen Club award for his debut novel. The book has also been nominated for novel of the year in Bulgaria. In 2020, his second novel Absolvo Te was published. The novel, inspired by two true stories, explores the abyss between two nations with common origins but have been waging a daily fratricidal war for decades. Georgi Bаrdarov is the winner of the European Prize for Literature for 2021 and the biggest literary prize in Bulgaria – the National Vazova Award for 2022.

Q1 What is the focus area of your work as an academic of Ethno-Religious Conflicts and Demography? 

As a specialist in ethno-religious conflict, my main concern is to expose the folly of military conflict. I think there is no cause that is above human life, every war is hidden under the mask of some cause, national, religious, etc., but in fact every war is just a business, a very profitable business for some, while others die thinking they are doing it for the cause. The main thing I want to convey to my students is that all humans are essentially the same and every division, ethnic, religious, even racial, is made for the sole purpose of being manipulated and used. Regarding Demography, I want to break the clichés about the demographic situation in the world because demography follows its logical and natural course and there should be no fear of demographic processes.

Q2 It has been extremely hard, under today’s circumstances of the ongoing conflicts around the world, to read your latest novel Absolve Te (I absolve thee). As far as I have been able to gather, it is based on two true stories – one about World War II and the Holocaust, and the other about the Arab-Israeli conflict. The main characters are a Palestinian, a Jewish man and a Nazi officer. Each of them must forgive and look past each other’s sins. How do you find the mental bandwidth to write about war while there are so many ongoing conflicts around the world? Do you test samples of your work with a trusted circle of readers before publishing the manuscript?

This is a cause for me, well beyond books and novels. But after two novels about wars, I feel infinitely exhausted and don’t want to write about war anymore. I am often asked in Europe if I will write a book about the war now in Ukraine? I answer no, everything I had to say about wars I have said everything in my two books, nothing new to add, everything is painfully repetitive, the protagonists change, the territory of the conflict changes, but the violence is essentially the same and it doesn’t matter when or where the war is! Yes, there are some very close people I discuss my manuscripts with, and I have a wonderful editor, Hristo Karastoyanov.

Q3 How do you find your entry point in writing these narratives about the war? How do you fix a text in time so as to be able to write it?  

First there has to be a true story that has touched me emotionally and I want to tell it to people. Second I do a lot of serious research with books, archival documents, people’s stories and third I absolutely go to the places I write about, do fieldwork so I can feel the energy of the place and then convey it authentically in the novel!

Q4 In some senses, your expertise as an ethno-religious conflict comes to the fore while writing these books. How much of this is historical fiction and how much of it is based on reality and empirical evidence? What is the purpose of writing conflict-based fiction? Does it give you the space to ask questions as well?

All my books are based on true stories, there is of course a lot of fiction, it’s hard to judge which is more, maybe 50/50. And my goal is for people to start asking themselves questions and not accept the easy answers and stay vigilant against manipulation.

Q5 What triggered your interest in conflict studies? What have you discovered over the years about mankind, conflict, and survival? Or am I missing something critical altogether?

I have a favorite thought, “Only the wisest and the stupidest never change.” Unfortunately, humanity is not one of the first. All the mistakes we’ve made as a human race we repeat them again, and again, and again.

Q6 You are a part of the creative team at Musagena when your mss was submitted for consideration. There is an imprint in your name on the website. Why did you feel the need to self-publish (if you can call it that) your debut novel?  Is the topic too sensitive and controversial? 

Yes, I am part of Musagenа. Our idea to create this publishing house was to be able to promote my books outside Bulgaria, because the traditional Bulgarian publishers work almost exclusively for the small Bulgarian market. Otherwise the subjects of my books are popular, albeit sensitive, both in Bulgaria and elsewhere in Europe.

Q7 What has been the response to your books? Do readers understand or are they as bewildered as the children in your stories are about what they are shown? Are readers receptive to books that are ostensibly set in the past but in reality, are about geographies that are currently in the news?

At the same time, my books are very well received, but readers are also shocked when they read them, because our idea is that such atrocities cannot happen today, that they have been left in the past. That is why I present war in all its ugliness and cruelty, so that people can feel that there is nothing more terrible than war, I believe that a war cannot be presented lightly or even “heroized”.

Q8 Is the experience of writing in any way cathartic for you? How do your academic pursuits influence your fictional writing and vice versa? 

Yes, I experience my own personal catharsis when I write my novels and develop my characters, I experience it with them. I wrote Absolvo Te because there are things I can’t forgive myself for in my own life, and with the catharsis of my three main characters, I experienced my own personal one. My academic career helps me do a lot of serious research for my stories; I do it more as a scholar than as a writer.

Q9 Who are the writers you admire?

Of course, except Georgi Gospodinov, who is already world famous, I like very much Ivo Ivanov, who lives in the USA and writes very strong stories about the strength of the human spirit, Radko Penev, who is a naval officer, but his books are charged with a lot of humanism and beauty, the incredible poet Petya Dubarova and my editor Hristo Karastoyanov, who is also a wonderful writer.

Disclaimer: This paper was written under the European Union Policy & Outreach Partnerships Initiative with the view to promote European Union Prize for Literature awardees. The publication was funded by the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

Interview with Slovenian writer Anja Mugerli

Author photograph by Saša Kovačič

(C) EU
This interview is facilitated by EUPL and funded by the European Union.

I am posting snippets of my correspondence with Anja Mugerli as it would give readers an insight into how she intermingles folkloric elements in to contemporary fiction.

Dear Anja, 

Thank you for sharing the two PDFs of your stories in English translation. I have been pondering over the stories for a while now. Your stories operate at so many levels. They require the stories to be read over and over again and there is always something new to discover. I am not sure if you intended it, but at one level it is a straightforward short story. At another level, particularly if read again, it has a “folklory” air to it. I am not sure how to spell it out any clearer. Then, your fascination with the body without being voyeuristic or sleazy but in a calm, matter-of-fact tone, is lovely. It is almost as if a confident female gaze is over the body. and owns it. It is a very empowering feeling while reading your fiction. Thank you. 

Dear Jaya,

Thank you for your very interesting questions. I’ll be happy to answer.



Anja Mugerli, born in 1984, is a Slovene writer. Her debut, the short prose collection Zeleni fotelj (Green Armchair), was published in 2015 and in 2017, her first novel, entitled Spovin, was nominated for the Novel of the Year Award in Slovenia. In 2021, her short prose collection Čebelja družina (Bee Family) won European Union prize for literature. She graduated with a degree in slovenian studies and has a master’s in performance studies and creative writing. She lives and works in Nova Gorica, on the border of Slovenia and Italy. In 2023, was published her second novel, entitled Pričakovanja (Expectations), by Cankarjeva založba.

Q1 How and why did you start writing fiction?

I grew up surrounded by books. I was a very shy and quiet child and sometimes it was hard for me to make friends. I guess what was missing in my real life I found it in books and when I grew up, I realized that I can express myself in writing. After I finished my studies, I decided I want to start writing seriously and I started sending my short stories to Slovenian literary magazines. More I wrote better my writing became and in 2014 I send my best stories to some editors because I wanted to publish a book. A year later my first book, a collection of short stories Zeleni fotelj (Green Armchair), was published. The book was very well received in Slovenia and since then I wrote three more books, two novels and another collection of short stories Bee Family, that received the European Union Prize for Literature. It was translated in Croatian, Macedonian, Hungarian, Italian and Bulgarian. Other translations will follow. 

Q2. You are a polyglot. English, Spanish, Italian, and Slovene are the languages spoken by you. How does this familiarity with languages and thus, with different cultures impact your writing? 

Slovene is of course my mother tongue. From other languages the closest to me is Italian because I live in a city on the border with Italy and I was in contact with this language form early childhood. English and Spanish I learned in school. Understanding different languages means that I can also read books in English, Italian and Spanish. Reading a book in original language is a different experience than reading it in translation. I often read the same book first in original language and then in Slovenian translation. An advantage of understanding different languages is also that I can read a book before it’s even translated in Slovenian. All this affects my writing. When I write a book about specific theme, I read other books that deal with this topic. In this way I compare different views and I try to look at the theme from other angles. This definitely broadens my horizon. Sometimes I use different books as references. In my novel Pričakovanja (Expectations) for example, I related to the female authors like Rachel Cusk and Sheila Heti who in their novels write about motherhood and womanhood.

Q3. What is it about cultural mappings that interests you? 

In my book Bee Family, I explored different old customs and rituals specific from old Slovenian culture. Because I wanted a specific, darker atmosphere in the book, I chose the customs and rituals that deal with a little more obscure topics, for example burials. I knew about some customs, about others I found out during my research. There are a lot of old customs that are not used any more but they are still part of our culture’s heritage. I think it’s important to remember them and their role in past culture, and since many people don’t read ethnological articles, I think it’s a good thing to write about it in fiction. I like literature from which I learn something new, in which it’s not only about the story.

Q4. Would you self-translate your books, say from Slovene into English or even Italian? If yes, then what are the safeguards you would put in place, so as not to tinker with the text too much? Or would you merely translate the Slovene text as it has been written into another language? 

In the past I actually translated a few of my texts from Slovenian to Italian. They were dramatic texts for a competition held in Duino in Italy. Two times I received the second prize, so I guess the translations were not bad. Today I wouldn’t do it anymore. I love writing in Slovenian. I can think, explain, interpret best in my own language.

Q5. You seem to be fascinated by the body. Why?

I think in western culture everyone is fascinated by the body – with this I mean of course female body. Since we are little girls, we hear and see everywhere how should a female body look like and also how it shouldn’t. This applies to films, tv-series, commercials and nowadays social networks, but it doesn’t stop there. Girls and women are confronted with comments on their bodies also in their social circles, from their classmates, coworkers and family members. The people who think they are allowed to comment on your body are often men (but not always!) and therefore also this myth of “perfect” body was made by men. I’m interested in women’s experience of their own bodies. How does it feel to be constantly aware of your own body? Because I think that women are constantly aware of their own body: how does it look, does it fit the society “standards”, what you think is wrong with it? Can your body get pregnant and can you have children? This is another thing that is very important in our society. Are you still a woman if you can’t have children? Or if you don’t want to have children? In my writing I try to turn the focus from “how should” to “how does it feel”.

In my novel Pričakovanja (Expectations) I write about a couple who can’t have children. The protagonist Jana is confronted with her own expectations and longings and with expectations of society. She is married, she finally has a steady job, she and her husband just bought a new apartment, the next step is a child. It seems that everyone around Jana expects that she will get pregnant. If she can’t get pregnant naturally, the medicine will help, it’s as easy as that. But during procedures of artificial insemination Jana feels more and more alienated from her body. She is reduced to her uterus, ovaries and cells and she gradually starts to lose contact with herself. The fact that the procedures of artificial insemination don’t succeed doesn’t help. Jana begins to think about motherhood. What does it mean to be a mother, is this really the only way she can live a full life, is it such a tragedy if she will never have children, what are the advantages of not having a child? She also realizes that it’s sometimes very difficult to separate your own expectations from expectations of others.  

Q6. What is it about folk tales that intrigues and you wish to experiment with in your literary fiction? What are the technicalities that charm you, apart from folklore being a fine example of storytelling that has withstood the test of time. Can these be used and adapted with sophistication in modern stories? 

In my book Bee Family, I explored old customs and rituals that are specific to Slovenian culture but can also be related to Slavic folklore. I never wanted to write about the past, instead I wanted to place these customs and rituals in today’s time (only one story happens in the past, during Second World War). I personally see old customs as a link to our ancestors and their way of life. I like the magic and secrecy of it, but I’m aware that nowadays society is very different, the values changed. Because of this, in my stories I tried to rethink old customs and rituals in a way that their main role changed. For example, in the first story of the book, the dance with the chair takes another role in the protagonist’s life in comparison to the old woman’s. If the dance with the chair in old woman’s life was important because during it, she found her future husband, the protagonist uses this old custom differently. In this way she breaks the tradition but on the other hand it’s because of this custom that she takes her life in her own hands. These customs and rituals often help my protagonists but not always in the way the reader may expect. My translator into Croatian said to me that these unexpected turns were exactly what fascinated her about the book. I see tradition as an important part of our culture, but I also think that we should rethink some old customs, see if they still make sense in the life we live today. Some cultures for example still blindly follow some customs that are hurting people and animals and nature. 

Q7. How would you define femininity? Why is it that I get a sense from the few stories of yours that I have read, it is a concept that you wish to tussle with? 

I think about this question a lot and I also try to integrate it into my writing, so I guess your sense is correct. What does it mean to be a woman? I often think about my mother who passed away four years ago. She was the first female role model to me. She was a very kind woman who always put her family first. She would do anything for us, her children. Some would say that this is a very natural thing, maternal instinct, but I personally know many women who don’t feel this way about their children or who even won’t have a child because of it. Are they less women because of it? I don’t think so. In her caring for others my mother completely forgot about herself. I see femininity as an ambiguity, always keeping balance between your own needs and wishes and expectations of family, friends, society. Some women, especially older generations, couldn’t handle this balance and they lived like my mother, they never put themselves first. It still happens today. I know many young mothers who deal with sense of guilt whenever they choose to put themselves before their child. I don’t have children, but I think you can’t expect to raise a child, who is sure of himself and who loves himself, if you as a mother don’t feel this way about yourself. It’s always about projection.

Q8. Your authorial comments in the stories are astute and you etch characters brilliantly. They are memorable.  How do you observe people in real life? 

As I mentioned before, I was that child that didn’t join the play or quarrels with other children. Instead, I’ve rather observed the behaviour of others, not only my peer but also adults. I’m an introvert and as you may know introverted people prefer solitude and conversations one-on-one than big gatherings. But because our society (with “our” I mean Western) is more extrovert oriented, introverts are sometimes forced to act in extroverted way, for example if they want to get a job. Some years ago, I read a beautiful book about introverts, Quiet by Susan Cain, and the author during her research found out that introverts often imitate the behaviours of extroverted people. They do this so they can survive in hyperactive western society. I found myself in this description and more I think about it more I’m sure I did/do the same think. I observe people, but I don’t stop with their behaviour, I also focus on their moods, fillings, reactions etc. I use all of this in my writing and in creating of my protagonists.

Q9. Women writing about families tend to get mired in a lot of domestic detailing, which in its own way needs to be articulated and made visible. Yet, in your fiction, you take it one step further and probe the grey spaces between relationships and explore the “what if”, without underlining it. Are these conscious acts in your craftsmanship? 

In connection to my previous answer, I would say that in my writing there isn’t a lot of action. Although I observe different people and use the material in my writing, I simply can’t write from the focalization of an extroverted protagonist, because I don’t know how it feels to be extroverted. Instead, I focus on the things that interest me the most: the inner life of my protagonist, their psychology, their relationships and how they are being shaped in these relationships. 

Q10. Do you have any Slovenian author/book/literary website recommendations for readers?

I would recommend writers Lojze Kovačič and Ana Schnabl (their books are also in English), and Slovenian poetry which in my opinion is very good. My favourite Slovenian poets are Miljana Cunta, Veronika Dintinjana, Maja Vidmar, Barbara Korun. I would also recommend they visit websites Airbeletrina and Vrabec Anarhist. Together with my two colleagues I edit literary newspaper November and your readers are very warmly invited to check our Facebook page and Instagram.

Disclaimer: This paper was written under the European Union Policy & Outreach Partnerships Initiative with the view to promote European Union Prize for Literature awardees. The publication was funded by the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

Web Analytics Made Easy -