Country Focus: Bulgaria (Balgariya in Bulgarian)
East of the West: A Country in Stories
By Miroslav Penkov
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.
Genre: Short Stories
Time period: Various
Notes: Penkov was born and raised in Bulgaria. His translation of East of the West, his first book, rose to the top of Bulgaria’s bestseller list in 2012.
Grandma died of breast cancer in 1989, only a month after communism was abolished in Bulgaria. I was eight and I remember it all very clearly. We buried her in the village. We put the open coffin in a cart and tied the cart to a tractor, and the tractor pulled the cart and the coffin and we walked behind it all. Grandpa sat by the coffin, and held Grandma’s dead hand. I don’t think it actually rained that day, but in my memories I see wind and clouds and rain; the quiet, cold rain that falls when you lose someone close to your heart. Grandpa shed no tears. He sat in the cart, the rain from my memory falling on him, on his bald head, on the coffin, on Grandma’s closed eyes; the music flowing around them—deep, sad music of the oboe, the trumpet, the drum. There is no priest at a Communist funeral. Grandpa read from a book, volume twelve of Lenin’s collected works. His words rose to the sky, and the rain knocked them down to the ground.