“Stricken”: What happens to the sons of terror?


L ‘The feelings of the Bulgarian writer Theodora Dimova were evident, Thursday, May 19, when, in the heart of the fine perfume museum, she received the new Fragonard Prize for Foreign Literature, which aims to promote female feathers from other cultures. His translator Marie Ferinat Nikolov was also crowned. “I thought The destructive It was a novel about memory, but it also turned out to be a premonition of what was to come. Sometimes literature and historical destiny are mystically intertwined. And the writer can only be a witness to this crossing,” the award-winning novelist said of the work, The destructive , Published at the beginning of the year by Syrtes editions, it resonates strongly with Ukrainian drama.

The destructive Focuses on a dark page of Bulgarian history: the invasion of the country by the Red Army and the rise of the Communists to power after a coup organized between September 8-9, 1944 with the complicity of Bulgarian agents. The totalitarian dictatorship that gripped the country chased after all the “thinking heads” opposing the regime: journalists, writers, religious people, scientists, businessmen …

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Members of the intelligentsia, the rich Bulgarians or the middle class, the educated, large or small landowners, were persecuted if they did not show a desire to cooperate with the Soviet regime. Hundreds of men were arrested, imprisoned, tortured and executed. Their wives and children, after being expelled from their homes and deprived of their possessions, were resettled in remote villages, in very deteriorating living conditions, during a period of exile that lasted several decades.

letters crossed

The novel depicts three families of the coup victims. While the fathers, an Orthodox priest, thinker, and entrepreneur, languish together in the same cell and, in turn, undergo sessions of abuse and questioning, their wives and children orchestrate their survival. Raina, wife, writer and journalist Nicolas, on the night of his execution sends a thought to a long love letter to whomever told her about human disasters: “What has happened will inevitably happen. Repeat, in one form. or another. »

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Ekaterina, the Pope’s wife, talks to her three children. They are deported, living in abject poverty, and she knows she will die soon. You write them a long letter to tell the story of their people and give them strength to fight good battles. We will learn later, unfortunately, that his wishes were not fully fulfilled. The story of the third prisoner, a wealthy businessman, is told by his adopted daughter, Magdalena, whose life the disappearance of this father ruined. The last part gives the floor to Alexandra, the granddaughter of Nicolas, the heiress of the stubborn political and systematic violence that took the life of her father, the painter who died grieving for his persecution by the communist regime.

I believe that no person born and raised in the era of totalitarianism does not bear, in one way or another, the stigma of that period. In this sense, once an epidemic or stigma occurs it is unconsciously passed from generation to generation. In wonderful language, inhabited by great emotional force, The destructive Overtaken by poignant scenes, impossible to read, in 2022, without thinking of Ukrainian drama: families torn between the terrible decision to leave or the risky decision to face danger, children being hurled into impossible exile, witnesses and victims of violence, women brutalized and raped by thugs Who suddenly declared themselves soldiers or agents of the Soviet regime… The scenes whose horror was amplified by our devastating news, to the tunes of the echo chamber.

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Option Destroyed This first Fragonard Prize for Foreign Literature represents the special significance of a sound that works for memory, expelling the poison of forgetfulness and eternal renewal that makes our amnesia bed. It highlights the richness and importance of Bulgarian literature, its remarkable vitality, and is relatively unknown in France. He salutes the great novelist whose discovery is so urgent.

It is awarded €5,000 and weekly accommodations to the winning author, and is also offering €2,000 to the translator of the work in question. Marie Ferinat Nikolov, professor of Bulgarian language and literature and translator of more than 50 books by contemporary and classic Bulgarian authors, has been awarded after receiving last year’s prestigious Etienne Doult translation award, awarded by the Sorbonne University. An accomplished expert in Bulgarian literature and culture, she contributes to enriching our libraries with authors who are the heirs of history’s torments, but also bearers of hope.

The Jury for the Fragonard Prize for Foreign Literature is composed of: Jakota Alikafazovic, Elise Bogosian, Daniel Cillian Sabatier, Mathias Einard, Anna Mogales, Alina Gordel, Agnes Costa and Charlotte Urban.

The destructive , By Teodora Dymova, translated from the Bulgarian by Mari Ferinat Nikolov (cert editions, 232 pages, €19.95)

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