Well Read Poets Society, Interview with Nadya Radulova by Ani Ivanova

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Dont wait to be discovered by the outside world. Interact with it instead, says young Bulgarian author and poet Nadya Radulova

Nadya Radulova is a writer who refuses to indulge in the normal complaints of Bulgarian artists. She even inverts traditional grievances, claiming that hardship and a peripheral existence lead to better work.

VAGABOND spoke to Nadya as she was about to leave for London to attend the premiere of A Balkan Exchange, an anthology in which four British poets Andy Croft, Mark Robinson, Linda France and W. N. Herbert collaborated with and translated the works of four rising Bulgarian poets Kristin Dimitrova, Georgi Gospodinov, Vasil Vidinski and Nadya herself. The cross-fertilisation proved fruitful, inspiring both groups to produce new material.

Nadya’s involvement in the aforementioned cross-cultural project resulted in another invitation. She and fellow Bulgarian author Georgi Gospodinov were asked by New Writing North, a creative development agency in the northeast of England, to contribute to So, What Kept You?: New Stories Inspired by Anton Chekhov and Raymond Carver. The two feature alongside 12 contemporary writers from the UK, the United States and Eastern Europe. VAGABOND publishes Nadya’s work inspired by a quote from Carver, on the following pages.

Nadya has degrees in Bulgarian and English philology from Sofia University, a degree in Gender Studies from a joint programme of Budapest’s Central European University and London’s Open University, as well as a PhD in literary modernism. She received the Emerging Author National Literature Award in 2001, has published three books of poems and is a prominent contributor to literary magazines and newspapers. She works as a translator and editor with the altera monthly, travels extensively and yet still finds time for her own artistic endeavours. I simply like working with language, regardless of its manifestation, she says unhesitatingly.

You are active in quite a few fields. Which one do you use to describe yourself?

I tend to say I’m an editor and translator because this is what occupies most of my time. When my books of poetry and short stories are published next year, I’ll probably identify myself more with the writer’s role. As for my academic pursuits, I’ve now paused for a while.

You have worked extensively with British writers. Do the differences between you outweigh the similarities?

We may have a different background and language but we also have much that unites us. So we establish a rapport quickly there’s no process of adaptation. There’s one great difference, probably due to an inner feeling of freedom that we lack, they are more specific, idiosyncratic and singular than Bulgarians. They also engage in a smaller number of activities in their everyday lives. Another very obvious distinction is that it’s easier for them to make a living from writing whereas we don’t.

Which contemporary British authors do you think should be translated into Bulgarian?

Many works have not been translated. Poets Philip Larkin, Carol Ann Duffy, Billy Collins, many of Ian McEwan’s good novels, or a book I read recently, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.

Is contemporary Bulgarian writing comprehensible to foreigners?

I think so, but there are few authors who could become successful exports right now. Your question implies that we expect people from the outside world to discover us, as if we live on an unknown planet. I believe we should interact with the outside world instead.

They say art and writing that hails from a small country is peripheral. How do you react to this?

Writing is getting more peripheral everywhere. I see nothing wrong with the periphery; it’s a productive place and has triggered many significant developments in the centre. Regardless of its origins, good literature produces this essential effect everywhere. Blaming cultural policies is a waste of time and energy. An underprivileged background is better for a writer. But to answer your question there are small countries that produce outstanding literature.

Clich?s about Bulgaria abound roses, wine, Stoitchkov, babies for sale, sex tourism. Who’s to blame?

Those minds who find clich?s comfortable and secure.

How would you describe modern Bulgaria?

Not an easy place. To quote a poem from one of my favourite musicians and songwriters Joni Mitchell choose her a name she’ll answer to… . A changeling, a trickster. It plays pranks and it’s full of surprises!

You are an unabashed admirer of Britain. What is your British top three?

I liked the two cities I spent some time in very much, London and Newcastle, although they’re very different. It’s impossible not to like London; while Newcastle lets you imagine it. Most of all, I like the people idiosyncratic, yet open and adventurous. To me Britain has a strong air of adventurousness and challenge. Also, I like the feeling I get whenever I visit: you may be onan island, but it takes you all over the world.

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