Papancheva, Irina

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Irina Papancheva was born in the Bulgarian city of Burgas. She graduated from the St. St. Cyril and Methodius high school in Burgas where she specialized in literature, then continued her education at Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski where sheearned a master’s degree in Slavonic studies, focused on Czech language and literature, and completed her education at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium, where she got a master’s degree in European integration and development, majoring European politics and social integration.

She has worked as a journalist, editor, translator, deputy mayor of Sofia Municipality and an advocate in the Bulgarian and European NGO sectors. Currently, Irina Papancheva is Senior EU Advocacy Advisor at Hope and Homes for Children in Brussels.
Irina Papancheva was among the ten Europeans invited by Felix Meritis Foundation to participate in a public discussion in Amsterdam on the topic of the New Cosmopolitan after she won an essay competition on the same topic. She was also among the five nominees in the Fans of Flanders & VIW writing contest (2014).
She is the author of the illustrated children’s book I Stutter (Ciela, 2005), the short novel Almost Intimately (Kronos, 2007) and the novels Annabel (Janet 45, 2010), Pelican Feather (Janet 45, 2013), She, the island (Trud, 2017) and Brussels Naked (Znatsi, 2022), the novella Welcome, Nathan! (2019) as well as short
Almost Intimately got the audience nomination in the 2008 Bulgarian national literary competition South Spring (Yuzhna prolet). Annabel has been shortlisted in the 2014 January Contemporary Bulgarian Novel Contest of the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation and Open Letter Books at the University of Rochester. Eight years later Brussels Naked ranked second in the same competition (2022).  The manuscript of Brussels Naked was also shortlisted for the first Prize Orpheus, 2022, but got disqualified due to meanwhile being published.
Irina Papancheva’s works have been translated into English, French, Arabic and Persian.


Synopsis of the novel Annabel by Irina Papancheva*

Annabel is a young woman with a successful public administration career. She goes on a week-long business trip to the Netherlands, as a coordinator of a European project on employee motivation. Just before leaving for Amsterdam, she has revealed some shocking facts related to her personal life. Additionally, this is her first visit to Amsterdam after 13 years, a transforming period that turned a once passionate, spontaneous and imaginative artist into a contained and distant administrator. The visit evokes an avalanche of self-reflection and memories, and Annabel repeatedly goes back to key moments of her childhood and adolescence, love life and career. Back in the city of her youth, she faces her past and the woman she used to be, and she realizes how much she misses art. A catalyst in this process is Vincent Van Gehen, a consultant much older than her, with whom she shares a platonic soul attraction. At the end of the week, after five sunny days, Annabel cycles to the sea in a pouring rain. Reaching the shore, she also reaches out to the paints and paper that a little girl on the beach offers her. The sun comes out again and she makes her first brush strokes in 13 years.

Simultaneously, the author of the novel creates “her first blog”, written in the first- person, and she names it Cosmopolitans Caf?. Its 15 posts run one by one throughout the book, parallel to Annabel’s story. In the first blog post, the author shares with her readers her intention to create the character of Annabel, �a free, unburdened and un-anchored female character�. She goes on to reflect and share her views on issues like identity, cosmopolitanism, European citizenship, the new borderless lifestyle, hotels and airports, the European institutions. Among the topics of the posts are Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism, Citizenship and Identity, Euro-incubator, Schuman and Schumann (a funny sketch-fantasy about the similarity in the names of Robert Schuman, the father of the EU and the composer Robert Schumann). � In the end, the blogger asks: Is the character of Annabel possible? How much can people extend their identity and how much are they influenced by their national origins?

The third main line running throughout the novel is the presence and analysis of Van Gogh�s painting Sunflowers, as well as quotes from his letters to his brother Theo, revealing his rarely cited thoughts on cosmopolitanism, art and love. In the end of the book, this line culminates in a poetic and enigmatic chapter, where Van Gogh himself is the fictional character pursuing love.

The novel unwinds on many levels and subtly, but successfully blends elements, subjects and approaches that seem hard to blend – the author’s reflections and the fictional heroine’s story, art and administration, deeply intimate experiences and views on globalization and cosmopolitanism, Bulgaria and Brussels.

* Annabel by Irina Papancheva (Janet 45, 2010), a novel, 168 pages, edited by Victor Samuilov.


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