BULGARIA AND THE WORLD
The Bulgarian PEN Center was created in 1926. Then the president of the world writing community PEN was the Nobelist John Galsworthy, who had a keen interest in the Bulgarian literature. His positive attitude towards Bulgarians was not limited to literature alone. In 1927 Galsworthy published an appeal towards the world community to help Bulgaria deal with the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake in the region of Chirpan.
The establishment of the Bulgarian PEN Club (that was its original name) itself was also the work of the renowned Hungarian scholar and essayist Julius Germanus. On his way to the Near East he lived for some time in Sofia, where he met with Bulgarian writers. He introduced them to the ideas of the PEN movement, which was expanding its influence in Western Europe. A particularly important part of these ideas was the pursuit of creative communication among writers from all over the world who were full of resignation and criticism after the end of World War 1.
Shortly after Germanus’s departure about 40 renowned Bulgarian writers united under the Bulgarian PEN Club. A protocol preserved from the club’s first meeting shows the names of Elisaveta Bagriana, Dora Gabe, Angel Karaliychev, Elin Pelin, Kiril Hristov, Dobri Nemirov, T.G. Vlaikov, Vladimir Polyanov, Yordan Stubel and others. The first board was elected as well – Prof. D. Shishmanov – chairman, Dora Gabe – secretary, and Prof. Alexander Balabanov. Thus, a creative and humanistic organization was created on Bulgarian soil, which will overcome the trials of time that brought about new military situations and all sorts of totalitarian pressure. But during its 80-year existence our PEN did not for once abandon its pursuit of high art and its moral will for peace and humanism.
Successive Bulgarian PEN chairpersons are – Prof. Alexander Balabanov, Dora Gabe, Prof. Bogdan Filov, Anna Kamenova, Leda Mileva, Lilyana Stefanova, Bogomil Nonev, Nevena Stefanova, and Georgi Konstantinov (since 2000). Our center has participated in almost all World PEN Congresses, and our bulletin „Bulgarian PEN“, which comes out both in Bulgarian and English, is disseminated in nearly 100 countries. The bulletin comes out three times a year and each new edition presents about 20 Bulgarian writers with their translated works and notes about them. You could say our bulletin is an open window to the literary planet. Although modest in layout, it has done a lot to popularize our literature.
Currently the Bulgarian PEN Center is a community of Bulgaria’s most established writers of different generations – starting with Valeri Petrov, Leda Mileva, Anton Donchev, Anzhel Vagenstein, Vutyo Rakovski, Liana Daskalova, Bogdana Zidarova, and Atanas Nakovski, getting to the younger Alek Popov, Kristin Dimitrova, Boyko Lambovski, Deyan Enev, Georgi Grozdev, Zdravka Evtimova, Georgi Gospodinov, and others. Poets are a majority, critics – a minority (Lyudmila Grigorova, Gancho Savov, Zdravko Cholakov, and Vladimir Trendafilov). Some of our members have lived (or live now) abroad for a long time – Leda Mileva, Nikola Indzhov, Lada Galina, Boyan Biolchev, Kiril Kadiyski, Viktor Paskov, and others. Not surprisingly some of them are also known as very good translators.
The Bulgarian PEN Center constantly expands and renews itself. Each year 4–5 new members are accepted into the center. The Bulgarian PEN today comprises about 40 active members. Membership in the Bulgarian PEN isavailable to writers who have been recognized in the country and have had their books translated abroad. Desirably they should speak at least one western European language. Almost all the writers in Sofia’s PEN club have been awarded prestigious national and international prizes. Some of them are members of world literary academies. Among the PEN members there are also laureates of the greatest state award – the „Stara Planina“ Medal (Valeri Petrov, Anzhel Vagenstein, Anton Donchev, Lyubomir Levchev). Others are honorary citizens of their native towns (Leda Mileva, Georgi Konstantinov). Despite some objective difficulties of financial and other nature, our center has not even once forgotten its creative mission – to be a true center of high writing spirit and be committed to our integration into the world.
The Bulgarian PEN Center is a treasured achievement of our literary life. Known as a non-governmental and non-partisan organization, it plays a unifying role in the country’s cultural development. For decades the Bulgarian PEN Center has worked to create a humane and creative environment. An environment based on mutual human understanding, democratic spirit and creative bonds with the world literature.
President of the Bulgarian PEN Center