east-of-no-east

Daithidh: Eastern Europe to many in the United Kingdom is still very much an unknown, apart from the damaging residual shadows of the Cold War or trivia such as ‘Drunken Stag Nights’ in Prague or Budapest or the racist fears of being swamped by cheap labour or the influx of that most nebulous of terms, ‘Asylum Seekers’. East still seems very much as ‘East is East’ – a stereotype of estrangement. What interests me, given that you translate so much of your work into English, what is the West? What impact culturally does ‘The West’ have in your work, given that the the West seems determined to asset-strip the eastern Europe as it tries to inculcate new spheres of influence contrary to real notions of political autonomy – granted this is a loaded question, but what to an Eastern European writer does the label, ‘The West’ signify?

Zdravka: For me, the West signifies high literary standards  – Margaret Atwood’s standards, Hemmingway’s  standards, James Joyce’s standards, and in no case the cheap sex and violence novels that abound in the market. For me, the West is a symbol of a community of artists who are responsible for human liberties, who defend the ‘little man’s’ rights to happiness and justice. I have not felt any estrangement or haughtiness on the part of the editors from Western countries. On the contrary, they are much more agreeable and easier to work with than the editors of my native country. So, I appreciate those aspects of Western culture that teach me courage, endurance, and respect for other writers’ literary achievements.

Daithidh: Who or what has exerted the most powerful influence upon your writing?

Zdravka: The Bulgarian short story writers Yordan Yovkov and Yordan Radichkov, the great Russian writer Chekhov – I know some of his short stories in Russian by heart, the whole school of Bulgarian classical poetry, Hemingway’s novels For Whom the Bells Toll and Farewell to Arms, Maupassant, Günter Grass. One of my favourite English novels is Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

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