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Bozhana Apostolova: “Writing is an inner eruption of emotions”

April 30, 2009 by · No comments

An interview of Nataliya Nikolaeva with Bozhana Apostolova – a poet, writer and publisher, owner of “Zhanet 45” Publishing House.

Bojana Apostolova

“Success is when you make people happy.”
Bozhana Apostolova

There are artists who have the talent of sheltering harmoniously within themselves several gifts. Such is the talent of Bozhana Apostolova – an inspired poet, prose writer and patron of Bulgarian literature and culture.

Not by chance, Bozhana has been named Mother Teresa of Bulgarian culture for her generous mission to discover, support and publish Bulgarian authors.

This calling to serve native art is in harmony with her gift as a publisher of combining several natures together – “Alone and Shared I Abide in Myself”.

Perhaps the first and most genuine nature of Bozhana is her poetic face. The poetry books Fire Dancer’s Lot (1978), The Way Mom Makes the Sign of the Cross (1995), In the Drink of Darkness (1998), An Unpromised World (1986), Omnilove (2001), Third Condition (2003), Knot (2005) and I Can Barely Hold It In (2008) have won the love and acknowledgment of the Bulgarian art connoisseurs, poets and critics. For her wonderful poems the author has been favorably compared to Bagryana.

The other face of Bozhana reflects her gifts as original prose writer, insightful philosopher and psychologist of Bulgarian life. In the two parts of Everyday Bible, the life that has been personally suffered through and dramatically experienced, expands and gains universal meaning in order to represent the deepest meanings of human existence.

Bozhana Apostolova has also written a modern tale for children, The Man with the Sky (2002).

The author’s creative nature harmoniously manifests itself through the publication of established and younger poets and writers: Dora Gabe, Andrey Germanov, Ivan Radoev, Konstantin Pavlov, Ekaterina Yossifova, Stefan Tzanev, Nedyalko Yordanov, Parvan Stefanov, Ivan Dinkov, Stanka Pencheva, Georgy Velichkov, Hristo Karastoyanov, Boiko Lambovski, Georgy Borisov, Grigor Lenkov, Georgy Gospodinov, Yordan Eftimov, Silvia Choleva, Marin Bodakov, Petar Chuhov and many more.

Moreover, the uniting force of all the natures of the poet, prose writer and publisher is love: “the only communion bread in this all-forgiving time…”

What is the meaning of art to you?

To me art is a combination of everything: of being inside things and of being at a distance from them. Apart from worldly truthfulness, it has to have something else too, aside from life – that is play, fantasy, inner freedom and scope.

After all, it is important that through art the mental values survive on the grounds of general philosophy observing the most general rules; however, sooner or later, every rule grows old, as is the case with postmodernism. It is not modern any more.

Postmodernists are driven by habit; they are led by inertia and they do not notice that instead of modern they have become dull. Ailing in such cases is the meaning of art that is to ennoble the human soul, to make man better, more sensitive towards his surroundings.

How did you decide to publish Bulgarian literature in the first place?

I myself am an artist (my first book of poems came out in 1978 г.) I have many friends among the Bulgarian writers, I know how difficult it is for them, especially in a time like nowadays. I remember also how important it was for me to have my first book published, how long I waited for it.

Moreover, isn’t it an offense to forget our own authors, including the established ones, in today’s market, satiated with foreign bestsellers?

How should the young ones make their first steps in order to step onto the road of literature? If we ignore the commercial side, there is nothing more natural than having a Bulgarian publisher who cares for the Bulgarian literature.

What is the mission of the publisher of Bulgarian literature in the present day situation?

It is true that the publication of Bulgarian literature is not only an unprofitable business, but that it is most often even a losing proposition. Far more financially attractive is publishing horoscopes, esoteric literature, cookery books or all sorts of handbooks on how to lose weight, how to succeed in life, etc.

But I see the mission of the publisher in nurturing and preserving literary values. By the way, such a question sounds to me somewhat offensive, because how would such a question sound addressed to a German publisher in relation to the German writers?

What is the greatest challenge for you as an artist? And as a publisher?

For me, writing is an inner eruption of emotions that possess me at a certain moment and await their poetic expression. A challenge for the poet (what I feel to be in the first place) can be a single word, a single look, a single blade of grass, a single color or a random warbling of sparrows.

Now, as a publisher, it is different. I would be very happy to see among all the books I publish the emergence of something strong, surprising, and substantial.

What tendencies in contemporary Bulgarian art do you find most appealing? And are there any that you do not tolerate?

I am not a slave to tendencies. Everything that is genuine literature and has the marks of art, touches me; I do not tolerate lack of talent.

In what way do your creative work and your publishing activities interact?

To an insignificant extent, although my communication with the texts that pass through my hands enriches me anyway.

What are the principles that guide you as a publisher?

In the first place, to pay attention to all the manuscripts that have reached me, otherwise I might ignore something that deserves to be published.

To this purpose I allocate a considerable amount of funds and I use a wide circle of consultants – authoritative Bulgarian writers, on whose culture and literary taste I rely.

Who are your favorite contemporary Bulgarian and foreign writers?

I have no national favorites among writers. Interesting to me of late have been my encounters with the books of Harouki Mourakami, Costas Montis, and with almost all Bulgarian poets whom I publish and rediscover, as was the case with Dobromir Tonev and Nikolay Zayakov…

Have you had a meeting with art that has moved you especially much of late?

Yes. With an old acquaintance – Kurosawa.

What helps the development of a talent? And is there anything that might hinder it?

This is a subject for an entire research work. But, most generally speaking, it’s the spirit that helps. And the hindrance is, as far as the present day situation in Bulgaria is concerned, the financial embarrassment, which a number of talented Bulgarian authors experience.

Tell us something more about your inspiration. What is the position of your new book I Can Barely Hold It In among the rest of your books?

I already said that my inspiration comes suddenly, without even giving me the chance to make sense of it. And as far as my new book is concerned, it is already in the hands of the literary critics – it is their job to classify it, to evaluate it, to look for its place… For the time being, I am delighted. The responses are positive and proclaim a new, higher level compared to my earlier creative work.

Do you search for the young talents or do they find you?

This is, all in all, a two-way process, and I have the chance to choose, since I receive at least twenty manuscripts monthly.

What motivates you to continue to publish Bulgarian authors?

I am endlessly happy when some of the newly published books are received with delight and applause by readers and connoisseurs. Even if those cases are comparatively rare, that is sufficient for me: yet another talented author has been discovered.

When do you feel satisfied? What is the greatest recognition for you?

Personally, when I hear good words for some of my poems or for my books of prose. There is no greater recognition than that. Also, I cannot help being delighted with the numerous prizes awarded to my publishing house…

If you had the possibility and the power, what would you change in Bulgaria?

My, so many things in our social and political ways!… Many, many things, nearly everything… Except this country’s nature. But should I have to be more specific, the Value Added Tax in the field of culture.

What helps and what hampers Bulgarian art from integrating itself into European art?

This is not a question within my competence. As far as my activities are concerned, I am trying to do something to the best of my abilities, with my own funds – to implement the publishing project “Spiritual Door”, the nature of which is the mutual acquaintance of the European authors and literatures.

Moreover, on the grounds of sought-after interaction and bilateralism of the process, for instance, the five Bulgarian books translated into Turkish and the five Turkish books translated into Bulgarian are already a fact. The result satisfies me, and I plan to turn this into a publishing style in my contacts with publishers from other countries as well.

So far, Bulgarian literature has reached the shelves of European bookshops mainly due to the initiative of separate authors or foreign publishers, which defines its way as spontaneous and sporadic.

However, I would like things to change and to have a more serious, if not a state policy, at least an institutional policy in this regard.

What qualities should an author have and form in himself in order to develop his gift in the field of art?

Sensitivity, industriousness, talent.

What is a dream of yours that has come true of late?

I am publishing selected works of the great Bulgarian writer Vera Moutafchieva in 19 volumes: fiction, essays, memoirs, historical researches… I am excited with the fact that I will show in its glitter yet another Bulgarian treasure, because Bulgarians do not only have gold treasures from antiquity…

What are you still dreaming of?

Of more free time: for the family, for myself, for creative work.

Bozhana Apostolova’s name is invariably associated with one of the most authoritative Bulgarian publishing houses – Zhanet 45, which she founded and owns. Nevertheless, from 1978, when her first book of poems, Fire-Dancer’s Lot, came out until 2008, when her eighth book of poems, I Can Barely Hold It In, Stigmati PH, Sofia, was published, she has been winning persistently, and without extraneous clamor she has attracted increasingly more readers both of poetry and prose. Apostolova’s prose works include: Everyday Bible, a novel in two volumes; A Crossroad without Roads, a novel and The Man with the Sky, a modern tale for children.

In addition to the numerous honors for her publishing activities, Apostolova has been awarded a number of prizes for her own creative works, including the “Plovdiv Prize” for prose, (which she especially values), “The Gold Chainlet” of Troud Daily for poetry, and “The Golden Muse” for her creative work and contribution to the Bulgarian-Russian cultural relations.

Although the awards delight her, she considers the readers’ interest in her poems far more gratifying. That is the reason why she was delighted to accept the proposal of the Ministry of Culture for an author’s recital within the series Notes and Metaphors.

Stihosbirka na Bojana Apostolova Bozhana Apostolova’s new book of poems I Can Barely Hold It In, brilliantly designed by the artist Hristo Gotchev with illustrations by Georgy Gardev, has already come out and can be found in the bookstores. Readers will recognize in it the well-known expression of emotion from her previous books and will notice a new, thoughtful attention expressed with the laconic mercilessness of precise wording.

Bozhana Apostolova’s publishing house Zhanet 45 appeared as early as the nineties. The publishing house is geared toward publishing only Bulgarian literature by both classic authors as well as young authors making their debut.

“I publish very many young authors – from seventeen to thirty-three years old. And my publishing house is constantly seeking to discover among them the great Bulgarian authors, because it was hard for the young ones who have been writing in the past seventeen to eighteen years of the transition period to succeed.“ (Bozhana Apostolova)

The leading publishing house has been awarded national and international distinctions, among which two national awards: Hristo G. Danov for the publication of contemporary Bulgarian literature (2002) and Bronze Lion for complete contribution to the publication of Bulgarian literature (2002), Kostantin Konstantinov (2005) for contribution to the publication of children’s literature, as well as the UNESCO Prize, bestowed at the First World Book Design Competition in Frankfurt in 2003.

Translated from Bulgarian by Valentin Krustev and Donna Martell

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