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Five great books set in BULGARIA

10th May 2019

Five great books set in BULGARIA is the latest in our ‘Five great books…’ series.

Five great books set in BULGARIA

Bulgaria is a Balkan country, encircled by Romania, Serbia, Greece, Turkey and the Black Sea. So it’s no surprise that the territory has been fought over and occupied by many different invaders through the centuries, from Thracians, Persians, Celts and Macedonians in ancient times; as part of the Roman Empire in the first few hundreds of years AD; the Bulgars; the Byzantine Empire; the Ottomans; and as part of the Soviet Communist bloc after World War II.

More recently, a measure of stability has finally been found by modern Bulgaria as a peaceful parliamentary republic, and as a member of the EU and NATO. Nevertheless, it remains a hotbed of corruption and its population of 7 million survive on the lowest salaries in the EU.

Most people live in the capital city of Sofia and other regional towns and cities, reflecting the reduced reliance on traditional agriculture and increasing importance of technology and other service industries.

Here are 5 books – some novels, some short stories, some non-fiction – that are set firmly in this ever-changing Balkan country.

The Master by Dora Ilieva

Three years after her father’s tragic death, Kossara receives a mysterious phone call and a lucrative job offer. Eager to relaunch her academic career, she silences the voice of caution and accepts the proposal which requires that she return to her native Bulgaria.

There she discovers that what seemed like an innocent research opportunity is a race against death. Aided by her friends, she struggles to locate a valuable document only to realise that it must remain hidden forever.

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East of the West by Miroslav Penkov

A grandson tries to buy the corpse of Lenin on eBay for his Communist grandfather. A failed wunderkind steals a golden cross from an Orthodox church. A boy meets his cousin (the love of his life) once every five years in the river that divides their village into east and west.

These are Miroslav Penkov’s strange, unexpectedly moving visions of his home country, Bulgaria, and they are the stories that make up his charming, deeply felt debut collection. In EAST OF THE WEST, Penkov writes with great empathy of centuries of tumult; his characters mourn the way things were and long for things that will never be. But even as they wrestle with the weight of history, with the debt to family, with the pangs of exile, the stories in EAST OF THE WEST are always light on their feet, animated by Penkov’s unmatched eye for the absurd.

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Street Without A Name by Kapka Kassabova

After years on the outside, Bulgaria has finally made it into the EU club, but beyond the cliches about undrinkable plonk, cheap property, and assassins with poison-tipped umbrellas, the country remains a largely unknown quantity.

Born on the muddy outskirts of Sofia, Kapka Kassabova grew up under Communism, got away just as soon as she could, and has loved and hated her homeland in equal measure ever since.

In this illuminating and entertaining memoir, Kapka revisits Bulgaria and her own muddled relationship to it, travelling back to the scenes of her childhood, sampling its bizarre tourist sites, uncovering its centuries’ old history of bloodshed and blurred borders, and capturing the absurdities and idiosyncrasies of her own and her country’s past.

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Light Love Rituals: Bulgarian Myths, Legends and Folklore by Ronesa Aveela

– Discover Ancient Bulgarian Myths, Legends, Folklore, and Mythology
• Meet Heroes from Greek Mythology with Thracian Origins
• Enjoy Diverse, Delicious Modern and Traditional Bulgarian Recipes

A book for children and adults from 8 to 108 who would like to take a journey and discover Bulgarian folk tales, legends, and mythology. Whether you want to learn a little about their ancient Thracian origins, or you want to experience rituals practiced throughout the year with a fictitious Bulgarian family, or even if you’re only interested in traditional Bulgarian cuisine, this book has something for everyone.

Bulgarian culture is rich in folklore and traditions surviving since the days of the ancient Thracians. As pagan and Christian religions collided, many celebrations merged into one. “Light Love Rituals” will take you on a journey to discover these unique festivals.

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Valley of Thracians by Ellis Shuman

A Peace Corps volunteer has gone missing in Bulgaria and everyone assumes he is dead. Everyone except his grandfather, who refuses to give up hope.

Retired literature professor Simon Matthews launches a desperate search, only to be lured into a bizarre quest to retrieve a stolen Thracian artifact – a unique object of immense value others will stop at nothing to recover.

Matthews travels through a Balkan landscape dotted with ancient tombs and fortresses, unaware that his grandson has been confined to an isolated mountain cabin, slowly recovering from a severe head injury. Nothing can be taken at face value, as the woman assisting Matthews in his quest and the nurse caring for his injured grandson may have ulterior motives in helping the two reunite.

Even when Matthews succeeds in joining up with his grandson, departure from Bulgaria is only possible if the missing relic can be found…

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Andrew for the TripFiction Team

Do tell us in the comments below which titles you would add to the Bulgarian list!

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Other central and eastern European posts in our ‘five/ten great books set in’ series:

Ten great books set in Berlin

Ten great books set in Russia

Five great books set in Croatia

Five great books set in Hungary

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