Damianov, KrassimirPrint This Post
Krassimir Damianov was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. He graduated in highway engineering, studied in Cuba for a year, worked on the Asparuhov Bridge in Varna and also at the National Institute of Cultural Monuments. His first book, a collection of short stories – Why There Is No God – was published in 1981. He freelanced in Varna before working as an editor for the Bulgarian Writer publishing house. After his second book, The Devil’s Claw (1985), he became a member of the Bulgarian Writers’ Union. He worked in cinema, then as a taxi driver before emigrating to Spain, where he returned to his first profession as a building contractor. Before leaving Bulgaria he published Fairytales for Picky Eaters (1989). Since 1990, he has lived and worked in Madrid and Barcelona, where is the owner and manager of the Arthostal Cultural Association. The Diary of a Butterfly (2008) is his first publication after a twenty-year silence. The Bulgarian edition was nominated for Bulgaria’s three most prestigious literary awards. In his subsequent book, The House of the Hanged Man, he teamed up with Fakel Express, one of Bulgaria’s most acclaimed publishing houses, to kick off a curious literary competition in support of the printed book: The Best Reader Contest. In it readers must ferret out cleverly disguised mistakes within the work. Krassimir Damianov´s short stories have been translated into German, Russian and Czech.
Synopsis of the novel Diary of a Butterfly by Krassimir Damianov
Diary of a Butterfly is a novel about the loves, adventures and misfortunes of a young writer from the former East Bloc, who discovers the world, literature and passion during a short stay in Havana with his parents before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The novel takes the form of letters written to his first love, a Cuban girl, who subsequently emigrates to the US and whom he finds in New York after thirty-three years of forced separation. The unusual love triangle between her, him and his future wife is set against the backdrop of international events from the 1970s behind the Iron Curtain of real socialism, from which the main character attempts to escape – unsuccessfully and at all costs.
Filled with adventures, hitchhiking and presumptions, Diary of a Butterfly is on the surface a nostalgic memoir of the socialist Belle Époque, whose sensory intensity may seem enviable on first glance to today’s computer-addicted youth. Yet the question of whether the frivolous expressions of resistance made by intellectuals of the previous generation did not actually end up serving regimes around the world in exchange for fleeting moments of illusory freedom is still worth asking today. This is the idea behind the novel’s title, a reference to Chaos Theory and the “Butterfly Effect”: small sins and compromises lead to unforeseeable consequences.
In parallel to the story of an unlived, forcibly broken-off romance, as well as the devoted and blind love that comes to replace it and give it meaning, the novel also traces the fate of a dissident psychiatrist who pays for his friends’ free-thinking in prison; a talented young conductor who is forced to conform so as to gain access to concert halls; the attempts of a desperate liar, the son of powerful parents, to break away from the enchanted circle of his parentage – a tight, but emblematic circle of friends, some of whom ultimately find themselves scattered around the world, like the author himself (Krassimir Damianov now lives in Barcelona).
As a counterpoint to the letters about their carefree lives and amusing tales of a hypnosis-session-turned-striptease and the hunt for a drug dealer, the novel ends with the first and final letter from the main heroine in the shadows. In it, she tells the animated and intense story of her return to Cuba in a boat during the Mariel Crisis of 1980, during which up to 100,000 Cubans lost their lives in the Gulf of Mexico, according to unofficial estimates. Milagros’ memories of how the Cuban authorities purposely waited for a tropical storm before forcing a flotilla of tourist yachts, old fishing boats and even rowboats rented in Miami to pick up friends and relatives from the island to set sail is not only breath-taking: it is eye-witness testimony to one of the regime’s major crimes. The dangers faced by boats like the doomed Blue Rooster, which were packed far past capacity with criminals, the mentally ill and homosexuals on the Cuban authorities’ orders so as to rid the island of “undesirables,” are all based on real-life experiences.
All people and events in the novel are true, without it being a straightforward memoir. The author himself appears under his own name, convinced that the truth is indeed more incredible than everything that happens to us, because according to the beliefs of Milagros’ Afro-Cuban ancestors, Yoruba slaves, “everything in the world has already taken place once.”
1. A Child of Nature*
3. The Green Coat*
4. Angling for Goldfish
5. The Dream Sister
6. A Bachelor’s Send Off
7. Chaos Theory
8. VII on the Medvedev-Sponheuer Scale
9. Roads and Bridges
10. Fibonacci Numbers
11. Port Mariel*
* included in the present excerpt (the entire novel is 100,000 words).
- Diary of a Butterfly by Krassimir Damianov, translated by Angela Rodel
- Downriver by Krassimir Damianov, translated by Angela Rodel
- Riverbank by Krassimir Damianov, translated by Angela Rodel
- Krassimir Damianov:
- Devil’s Nail (a play) by Krassimir Damianov, translated by Silvia Valentino
- Fairytales for Pint-Sized Picky Eaters by Krassimir Damianov, translated by Angela Rodel