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Love and Other Catastrophes, Interview with Petar Denchev by Silviya Choleva

Posted By admin On May 11, 2010 @ 8:53 pm In Interviews | No Comments

Petar Denchev is like Venus, born from the sea – except that he was spawned by literary competitions
The titles Petar Denchev chooses for his works are inversely proportional to his age. The story that earned this 22-year-old Varna man his first literary prize – in the Altera competition – was called “Malakof, I Want To Grow Old”. The title of the novel which won him last year’s Razvitie, or Development, contest for the best new Bulgarian novel, is even longer: Just Like a Man Kisses a Woman He Loves.

However, Denchev, who studies theatre directing at the National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts, is growing up. His titles are getting shorter. A new novel, which appeared last year following Ciela’s Novel Prize competition, is simply called… A Simple Story.

You call yourself an “author born from competitions”.

Competitions were a strong impetus that gave me the self confidence and the positive thrill of seeing how I was developing and what was going on around me. They brought me into the public eye – which isn’t something degenerate. Lately I’ve heard arguments that contests favour only certain names, that they are pretentious, almost as if the problems facing Bulgarian literature can be blamed on the number of competitions. In my opinion, the only real problem is the lack of people with clear positions and interesting creative thinking. I was a total unknown when I won my first competition. I’m satisfied that various people gave me the opportunity to develop and move forward. I thank them for it.

At age 15 you dreamed about writing a novel. By 20, you’d written it, won prizes and had it published. Where to now?

Have you tried writing in a foreign language?

I’ve tried writing poetry in English and essays in French, but I’ve never tried prose. I would like to write in another language – that’s a feeling I don’t want to miss.

Is it true that prose requires life experience?

Of course. But experience is useless without imagination, which is what actually sparks the story.

Your first novel has what may be the longest title in Bulgarian literature.

I hadn’t thought about that. Still, it’s easy to remember.

What inspired you to write an intimate story about a love triangle?

The dissatisfaction that built up after meeting so many emotionally scattered people, people who are chaotic and erratic in their desires. This makes them not true to themselves and pointless for everyone else. So I decided to write a story about people whose relationships were in crisis from the very beginning. I think such a crisis exists between most romantic – and non-romantic – couples today. It’s hard to admit that the crisis is there, because that’s tantamount to admitting you’re weak.

Do your characters have prototypes? Do you use autobiographical elements?

No. I don’t know anyone that well. The novel is fiction.

Do you plan on writing a play?

I haven’t even tried. The idea’s been in the back of my mind, however. It’s a pretty difficult task, because it requires serious writing skills, certain professional abilities – tricks of the trade.

Can literature have an effect in this era of total media dominance?

Of course it can. Literature has its place in the media. If it weren’t for literature, the media wouldn’t exist. Gutenberg wouldn’t have invented the printing press if it hadn’t been for books.

At age 15 you dreamed about writing a novel. By 20, you’d written it, won prizes and had it published. Where to now?

I keep moving ahead. I haven’t stopped writing. I have an idea for a new novel. I try to be a good student of the theatre. These things require patience. I don’t want to force them.

Where’s the best party?

On the seashore. I really love the Mediterranean, Varna in the summer and the Greek islands. Paris is also very Mediterranean, despite being so far away. Maybe the Seine makes up for it. I think cities without water are boring, devoid of charm.

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