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 Interview with the novelist Emil Krastev published in the literary almanac “Sveta Gora


How did you turn to literature?

As a student I started work in a newspaper. And you know that the ambition of every journalist is to become acknowledged as a writer. When he is in his forties and nobody has paid attention to his literary attempts, he starts to discuss successful writers with his writing brethren What kind of a writer is that? Let him die, thirty years will pass, see if someone remembers him then... But when a man is twenty five, he does not think what people would say about him thirty years after his death. And it is better this way.

Did journalism help you, and then the work in the publishing house?

Journalism taught me to rewrite each text at least ten times before handing it to the editor. I weaned myself from that habit in the publishing house.

Your role models and paragons?

Walking into the steps of a writer is the shortest cut to imitation.

How do you write? Is it easy or hard for you? Do you write quickly or slowly?

Years ago I was told how William Saroyan gambled eighty thousand dollars at a poker game for one night, then went home, wrote a play until the nextmorning and sold it for sixty thousand. Roughly covered the loss. I almost developed an inferiority complex then. I succeeded in getting it into my head that this is just one of the thousand rumors circulating about famous writers and managed to skip depression. But Hemingway’s rate – two thousand words each morning and then do whatever you want – even today this is like Chomolungma for me, which I have to climb barefoot.

Do you believe in inspiration? Or do you write tenaciously each and every day?

In “Psychology of the Literary Work” Mihail Arnaudov quoted Balzac: ”Ideas rush into your heart or into your head without asking. No courtesan has ever been more capricious or imperative than the ideas of artists; when it appears, you have to grab it by the hair, like destiny.” When I remember this quote, I strain myself, ready to grab the idea by the hair. But then two verses from a Vysotsky song come to mind:

Today my muse came for a visit.

She sat awhile and off she went.

And then I tear myself between my muse and destiny.

Recently there has been a lot of talking going on about postmodernism in Bulgarian poetry and prose. What is your opinion on that?

The writer is a public figure. He wants others to read what he has thought about and praise him. He is free to choose the means, which will make his thoughts heard. It is his right to seek acknowledgement. It is his right to search for a form of expression that will let him make his mark on time. It is his right to take the risk to become a laughing stock.

Someone has said that: “style is the emanation of the moral human personality”. How would you interpret this phrase through your work and style?

I am not convinced that style is that important. And moral categories change with time. We see how deeds, expressions, arguments, statements, vulgarity and coarseness that have made notable people before remain silent or hide within themselves, are now accepted with rapture. It is a whole different story whether we like this or not. But a writer should speak in his own words. Even if his song is considered a croak at first.

“Europe’s intellectual guard”, Jean-Paul Sartre asked himself: should I create, reflect or discover? How would you answer this question?

It has as many answers as there are people on earth. I am not sure whether Sartre himself has had only one answer. In my opinion everyone should do what he is capable of. The tram-driver should observe the road signs, the member of parliament should vote with his own voting card, the writer should write only when he is incapable of not writing. Then he can create, reflect, discover. Probability is slim, but this does not mean that we should lay down and die.

What do you think about experimenting in creative work?

There is no creative work without experiments.

Don’t you think that your prose sounds pessimistic?

Does anybody accuse Dostoyevsky of pessimism? The writer describes life the way he sees it. And he accepts the danger of being read only by those who understand him. Even if it is only two or three persons. Besides, nobody pays attention to the written word here anymore. And the ones looking for popularity, should by all means observe the happy ending scheme. 

For me the world is full of fame seekers, one less in number would hurt nobody.

Do you see a good future for Bulgaria?

It is a hard thing to look into the future. Twenty something years ago futurists could not imagine the happenings of today. But one should do what one has to do, come what may.