In the process of
spiritual emancipation which called forth the political
change of 1989, the writings of the American transcendentalist
Henry David Thoreau acquired a peculiar, hardly ever expected
significance in Bulgaria. His social ideas and the spiritual
horizons of his philosophy of life closely corresponded
to the painful need of the individual in a so-called "socialist
country" for outward and inward emancipation: a need most
torturous for the intellectuals. So, if "there is hardly
an ism of our times that has not attempted to adopt Thoreau,"1
then it was the "anti-ism" to Bulgarian totalitarianism
that provided most of the preconditions for Thoreau's reception
in Bulgaria in the last communist decades and especially
during our "velvet revolution" and immediately afterwards.
long lasting compulsory spiritual fasting during the years
of communism needed a counterbalance mainly in terms of
stressing the role and capabilities of the individual. In
his inability to face and cope with the intolerable reality
every spiritually elevated person found the only way to
salvation to be the rediscovery of inward, spiritual spaces;
Travelling Towards Oneself 2,
the title of an outstanding Bulgarian novel of the sixties,
acquired a symbolic significance for the decades to come.
With circumstances like these Thoreau could duly satisfy
the urge for spiritual survival. Things being much more
complicated, indeed, the fact remains that Civil Disobedience
did slip into the publication flow of 1981 and appeared
to be one of the first public announcements of the approaching
change. Walden, however, never got among these translations
until after the political change; with no Bulgarian translation
available under totalitarianism, Thoreau's masterpiece acquired
even the additional charm of a self-discovered book about
self emancipation. Post-totalitarianism was to reveal later
on the depths of this uniquely bred Thoreauvian renaissance.
No one at the time was aware, however, that there were earlier
responses in our culture to Thoreau's spirituality and stylistic
1. Walden and
Bulgaria in the Twenties
Thoreau's name appeared for the first time in Bulgaria in
the early twenties, when the first translation of Walden
was published. Since there is no information whatsoever
about either the critical or the literary reception of the
book, this first Bulgarian issue of Walden needs to be seen
in the context of the cultural and literary background that
possibly evoked it.
early twenties were still the time when Bulgarian literature
was solving problems such as overcoming the already outworn
objective (descriptive) realism and was mostly preoccupied
with European literary modernism. The realistic trend having
always been strongest in Bulgarian literature, the line
of attempts in the first decades of the century to overcome
it and keep pace with the ongoing processes in other European
literatures, saw successive periods of aestheticism, symbolism,
and expressionism. The literary change was considered primarily
as a constant awareness on behalf of both writer and reader
of the "literariness" of the work of literature, of its
nature as a "thing made." Predominant at the time of Bulgaria's
national liberation (1878), the notion of the writer as
primarily a patriot and of literature as hardly more than
avocation gradually developed and by the turn of the century
was already changed into "the notion of the writer-patriot
instead of that of the patriot-writer."3
The status of authorship was changed; writing became a professional
occupation. Together with the different perspective towards
artifacts went a newly acquired self-consciousness on the
part of the intellectual and of the literary endowed individual
in particular. This transformation, of course, did not generally
affect cultural life in Bulgaria around the turn of the
century, but it was characteristic of the ways the Bulgarian
intelligentsia was formed and how its attitude of "estrangement"
on the basis of personal abilities was established.
most important event in this respect was the foundation
in 1898 of Misal [Thought] - a magazine for literature and
philosophy, which existed for almost fifteen years and "intellectualized"
the whole cultural life in Bulgaria during this period.
Its founder, Dr. Krustyu Krustev, had studied philosophy,
aesthetics and literature in Germany and was an inveterate
Kantian; its leading figure, the poet Pencho Slaveykov,
had received the same education in Germany and was not alien
to Nietzsche's theory of the individual superpowers, popular
then in Western Europe. As a Kantian, Dr. Krustev assumed
that what is called nature is the perceptible unification
of essence and appearance, and hence art for him was a "contemplative
delight driven out of symbols."4
For Pencho Slaveykov the antinomy "man and superman," well
discussed then among many of his West European contemporaries,
took on the form of an opposition between "poet and crowd,"5
thus leading him to - and introducing to the Bulgarian literati
- an elitist concept of the creative personality. Although
they had their readers, both men believed their reading
audience was yet to come and never failed to point out that
their writings were aimed at the future. Pencho Slaveykov
made the first Bulgarian translation of Nietzsche's Also
sprach Zarathustra, which was published only a little earlier
than Thoreau's Walden.
purely intellectual trend, known as Bulgarian aestheticism,
considerably influenced Bulgarian literature during the
first fifteen years of the century. This is particularly
true of changes in attitude towards literary phenomena and
towards personal capacities, the last perceived mainly as
creative or poetic ones. Having a lot to do with the German
philosophic and aesthetic tradition, this transformation
might be thought of as a possibly helpful precondition for
an aspect of Thoreau's reception in Bulgaria at the time,
as suggested by the available evidence of Walden's reception
in Germany during the same period. Thoreau was then considered
in Germany Kantian, "whose subjective impressions were translated
into natural contexts;"6
his stylistic ability was praised as highly as the French
one and his capacity to discern the essence of nature was
It is not necessary for the Bulgarian literati from Misal
to have known anything about either the interpretations
of Thoreau in Germany at that time, or even about the 1897
German translation of Walden; they simply shared the background
for similar interpretations. And moreover, they prepared
a possible reception of Thoreau in Bulgaria that would have
praised the poetic vision as a main characteristic of the
creative personality in contrast to the materialistic aims
of "the crowd."
the German intellectual impact in Bulgaria at the end of
the nineteenth and during the first two decades of the twentieth
century was much more partial than was the Russian one.
Plenty of historical reasons, including the very fact of
Bulgaria's national liberation, made the Russian influence
in Bulgaria at that time powerful and many-sided.
early nineteenth-century tradition, many Bulgarians received
their high school and university education in Moscow, St.
Petersburg or Odessa and directly brought into the country
strong Russian cultural and ideological influences. The
closeness of the two languages, Bulgarian and Russian, was
another decisive factor for the intensity of the versatile
Russian significance to Bulgaria. For a long time, Russian
literature became the most influential one in Bulgaria not
only culturally, but also in terms of ideology and even
politics. It was through the Russian language that a considerable
part of Western European literature did actually come to
Bulgaria, this process beginning in the years of the so-called
Bulgarian Renaissance (the end of the eighteenth century
- 1878) and continuing sporadically until as late as the
1930s. More than welcome in the very beginning, however,
this practice of translating Russian translations into Bulgarian,
naturally leading to results on hardly more than an informative
level, was already thoroughly undesirable at the turn of
the century; aestheticians, symbolists and expressionists,
all mainly German trained, together with the Russian trained
Bulgarian intelligentsia, considered it part of their vocation
to oppose it.
cultural significance to Bulgaria was not only preserved
as an already proven traditional necessity but was even
strengthened and elevated in the period considered. In addition
to many historical reasons, this was because the closeness
of the languages naturally served as a mediator for an unimpeded
acquaintance on the part of the Bulgarian readers with the
achievements of Russian literature and social-philosophical
thought, as well as with the then existing Russian translations
from other languages. It was also the conscious policy of
some Bulgarian literary magazines and publishing houses
of the time to provide information and comments on topics
of Russian literature and philosophy, including translations
The reason for
this brief review of some of the aspects of the Russian
influence in Bulgaria before and in the early twenties is
to outline the main orientation of Bulgaria's cultural life
at the time and to point out at least three preconditions
tightly connected with it for the appearance of Walden in
Bulgarian: namely, the attitude towards nature, the then
existing possibility of incorporating Russian translations
and original works as part of Bulgaria's intellectual realities
and Bulgarian Tolstoyism.
The first one,
though stemming from an age-old Bulgarian folklore tradition,
had a lot to do with the closeness of the Russian literary
tradition. Turgenev, Tolstoy, Chekhov, not to mention Pushkin
or Lermontov, were then widely known in Bulgaria. Their
intensive feeling for nature thoroughly corresponded to
the devotion and admiration the Bulgarians cherished for
their native landscape, as Ivan Vazov (1850-1925) used to
express it throughout his life in beautiful narratives and
poems (The Great Rila Desert, In the Land of Fairies, etc.).
For Vazov nature was never simply a picturesque surrounding;
it was an altar, pure and sacred, where the spirit achieved
its most elevated moments. Sharing a lot of the Russian
inclination for highly poeticized and detailed nature descriptions,
Vazov made closeness to nature his life-style: he was notorious
for his "walks" to the very depths of the wilderness Bulgaria's
landscape provided, as well as for his conviction, that
one should know one's native land in order to be able to
love it. For Vazov the relationship between man and nature,
or, to put it more precisely, the relationship between man
and nature in one's own native land, was primarily a spiritual
one and in itself a whole universe. This combination of
a true patriotic feeling (Bulgaria had just become an independent
country), poetic talent, high spirituality strongly influenced
by Russian literature, and acute sensitivity for detail
made Ivan Vazov the first great Bulgarian worshipper of
nature - in poetry as well as in life.
A decisive step
in the very same direction was made by another admirer of
the great Russian nature-lovers. Aleko Konstantinov (1861-1898)
was not simply a nature devotee; his travel notes marked
the line beyond which travelling becomes a poetic experience.
Founder of the Bulgarian Tourist Union (which is still named
after him), Aleko Konstantinov considered travelling a mode
of life and a mode of writing at the same time; travelling
was his true vocation. Walking was for him a sacred activity,
rather than merely an enjoyable cognitive one. What he left
were not simply descriptions of static pictures of nature,
but lively narrations of his personal biography in the midst
of nature; he possessed the perceptive intensity and freshness
that are characteristic only to new-born nations. A real
cosmopolitan, Aleko Konstantinov was also the first Bulgarian
writer to visit America (1893) and to express his admiration
for Niagara Falls in a book that was from the moment of
its publication considered a masterpiece (To Chicago and
on the Way Back). His stay in America being too short and,
moreover, the foreign language he used being French, he
was not able to get acquainted with what would have been
fairly close to his mentality and inward disposition - namely,
the writings of the American transcendentalists.
is possible, however, that both Aleko Konstantinov and Ivan
Vazov, as well as many Bulgarian intellectuals of the time,
knew about Thoreau through Russian: Novoe Vremya [New Time]
was then widely read in Bulgaria and it was exactly this
leading Russian daily that published in 1887 the first installment
of Walden; 8
there were also the two later Russian translations of 1900
and 1910, as well as the selection of Thoreau's thoughts,
published in 1903 as Philosophy of Natural Life.9
There is no need for speculations in this direction; the
facts as they are suggest only that Thoreau's book might
have been known to some intellectuals in Bulgaria at the
time. But even if it wasn't, the biggest part of Bulgaria's
intelligentsia, being closely connected with the Russian
one while pursuing its own interests and goals, shared the
disposition that caused Chekhov's or Tolstoy's admiration
for Thoreau 10
and in a way prepared the ground for the appearance of Walden
in Bulgarian in the twenties.
opportunity to trace the possibility for Thoreau's name
to have reached Bulgaria through the mediation of Russian
sources is provided by the strong Tolstoyist movement around
the turn of the century. After Tolstoy underwent his conversion
in the early 1880's and turned towards the problems of society
and religion, his notions, as supported by his already established
authority, gained popularity among certain circles of Bulgarian
intellectuals, preoccupied with the idea of healing society
from the discontent and disappointment that followed the
idealistic exaltation of the years of Bulgaria's liberation.11
Tolstoy's writings on topics of social reformation and religion
were widely read in the original or in Bulgarian translations.
V. Chertkov's periodical Svobodnoe Slovo [Free Word], published
with Tolstoy's approval, did also have its Bulgarian readers;
and it was in its very first issue of 1898 that - at Tolstoy's
suggestion - the first Russian translation of Thoreau's
Civil Disobedience appeared.12
Since "it is true that Tolstoy knew Thoreau's ideas fairly
well and that he used them to illustrate and emphasize his
it might be assumed that Tolstoy's popularity among Bulgarian
intellectuals provided at least the background for another
aspect of Thoreau's future reception in Bulgaria.
Russian influence on the then ongoing processes in Bulgarian
cultural and intellectual life presupposes a certain propitious
disposition on behalf of the Bulgarian intellectuals of
the time for Walden's forthcoming publishing in the twenties;
it also suggests a certain amount of knowledge of Thoreau
reaching Bulgaria around the turn of the century.
with the Russian and the German influences that were intermingled
with some inherent characteristics of Bulgaria's cultural
and literary life, thus - together with the rest - providing
certain preconditions for Thoreau's appearance in Bulgarian,
there was another factor that most definitely - and directly
- led to the publication of Walden. The doctrine of Peter
Deunov (1864-1944), called "Deunovism" after him, had hundreds
of followers from all strata of Bulgarian society. Deunov
was a type of Eastern priest-philosopher and had nothing
to do with the traditional orthodox preachers Bulgaria knew.
He preached for the supreme task of man on earth to be the
intimate interrelation with the original cause of existence,
with the divine, with infinity. "The new cosmic view of
life," based on "new sensuousness, new paradigm, new consciousness"14
was for Deunov the only way of attaining perfection. This
was in itself a religious doctrine that constantly tended
to turn into mysticism and thoroughly repudiated the church;
it insisted on its "newness" in every respect and proclaimed
a life style in the open air, amidst the elements. Deunov's
numerous lectures delivered before thousands of people and
frequently published during the first decades of the century
resulted in the foundation of the so-called Deunovist colonies.
These were people who lived in groups of hundreds outside
society and as simply as possible: they had no churches
to pray in; instead, the sacred ritual of their life became
the daily meeting of the sunrise.
Deunov was persona non grata throughout the time of the
communist regime and not a word about him was officially
allowed to be mentioned, although Deunov had been for years
a world-wide known spiritual leader with followers everywhere
(Einstein among them). It was only after the political change
in 1989 that book after book by and about Deunov started
appearing in Bulgaria. The important fact came out that
Deunov studied medicine in Boston in the last years of the
nineteenth century. Given the scope of his interests and
the main trends of his doctrine, as well as the experiment
of simple collective living undertaken in the Deunovist
colonies, it is not impossible to presume that Deunov could
have known the writings of "the man of Concord." Like other
Deunov might have ignored the individualism, the solitary
side of the Walden enterprise, and transformed it into a
collective striving towards spiritual perfection. Following
what he considered to be his vocation, namely that of a
spiritual father, Deunov could possibly have had in mind
something of the Emersonian ideal of the poet-priest. But
even if American transcendentalism and Thoreau in particular
were outside his knowledge, Deunov was familiar with the
same sources in Eastern philosophy and literature and obviously
shared the notion of visibility beyond the visible; moreover,
preaching for a "new sensitivity," like a true Thoreauvian,
he insisted on keeping all the senses and not just the eyes
alert in order to perceive thoroughly.
should be left aside either with respect to Deunov's knowledge
of Thoreau or regarding Deunov as having in his own way
approached some of the ideas of American transcendentalism;
the point here is to draw attention to the Deunovist doctrine,
popular as it was in Bulgaria in the first decades of the
century, as another highly possible precondition for the
appearance of Walden in Bulgarian.
The first Bulgarian
publication of Walden in the twenties was as a translation
more of a bibliographical significance; as a cultural phenomenon,
however, it may be considered a litmus, test for some of
the main aspects of the cultural situation in Bulgaria at
the time - the same ones, in fact, that led to its appearance.
A period of intensive spiritual uplift brought Walden for
the first time to the Bulgarian readers and thus afforded
the model which was to bring it back to them more than six
2. Thoreau and
the Process of Spiritual Democratization in Bulgaria
broader context would allow the early Bulgarian translation
of Walden to be seen as a first step towards introducing
Thoreau to Bulgaria - a first step which was matched in
1981 with the translation of Civil Disobedience. Thoreau's
famous essay, though translated in an abridged form because
of the censorship, gave then its title to a miscellany of
American essays. The very appearance of a volume entitled
Civil Disobedience was already a symbolic act: it contained
in itself the spiritual ripeness for disobedient behavior
and was also the first public announcement of the real social-spiritual
disposition of the Bulgarian intellectuals at the time -
and this through the name and perhaps the most socially
influential idea of Henry David Thoreau. Thus it was not
unexpected at all that later, in 1989, the main slogan of
the Bulgarian "velvet revolution" was "civil disobedience"
and that the essay itself was published again by a radical-democratic
weekly at one of the most critical moments of the large-scale
There were also
other sources through which Thoreau's name reached the Bulgarian
readers, these being the Russian editions of Walden from
1962 and 1986, as well as - for a handful of them only -
the original text, of course. The closeness of the two languages,
Bulgarian and Russian, served once again as a mediator and
made it possible for Walden to be much read and often cited
by the Bulgarian literati. As was customary for that type
of Russian (and Bulgarian) publication of the time, the
1962 and 1986 editions contained introductions both ideologically
true to the regime and full of real admiration for the artistic
qualities of the book. Such was the usual practice of introducing
any actually valuable work of literature to the "socialist"
readers: by providing it with a kind of a "passport" that
guaranteed primarily its "progressive" social significance
and sometimes, its aesthetic importance, thus legalizing
the appearance of the translation. The immediate result
of this communist publishing practice was that many of the
readers developed the capability to "read between the lines,"
i.e. to take for granted that what counted most was left
Thus, it was
Walden's stress on individuality and the individual capabilities
that mostly matched the spiritual needs in Bulgaria during
the totalitarian period - the period when individuality
counted for nothing, and actually denoted only what had
to be suppressed. The significance of individuality was
then felt and expressed by the Bulgarian intellectuals in
the only possible way that was left - namely, in terms of
striving for spiritual survival. For this reason above all
Walden appeared to be for the inwardly "disobedient" Bulgarian
readers an unexplored and, at the same time, artistic way
of self-revelation and self-expression.
should be put aside about Walden affording a high spiritual
horizon to Bulgaria or about the translation of Civil Disobedience
presaging Bulgaria's "velvet revolution." What should be
accented, though, is that both Thoreau's works were known
in Bulgaria quite in time for them to have the most thorough
reception and, hence, be more influential. If, according
to the theory of literary reception,17
the reader finds in the text the answer to the question
he himself has asked, then the time since 1980 was the best
for the questions asked in Bulgaria to find most satisfying
answers in Thoreau's works. It was this very spiritual disposition
that in the early nineties led to a new Bulgarian translation
of Walden and Civil Disobedience. The questions which arose
were to provoke their needed - and already partly known
- Thoreauvian answers in their own idiom.
The point here
is that the process of spiritual democratization in Bulgaria
preceded and called forth the political one, and that in
this very process there was a lot to go along with Thoreau's
writings and a lot that sought confirmation and inspiration
convictions, evolving from moral attitudes, were not directly
expressible under the totalitarian dictatorship. Hence a
way to express oneself was through a notional, kind of "transcendental"
poetry and prose (Blaga Dimitrova, Alexander Gerov, Dimitar
Korudzhiev, Konstantin Pavlov, Boris Hristov) or the so-called
"objective poetry" which was more or less the reverse side
of it (Alexander Gerov, Valeri Petrov, Radoy Ralin, earlier
Athanas Dalchev). Literature was considered by these authors
to be the only means of achieving what was not achievable
in reality. "I thought I lived in order to accomplish in
books, in an indirect poetic way some part of the freedom
I would never see, I would never experience," wrote Dimitar
Since communist reality seemed frozen and unchangeable,
dissatisfaction with it took the form of a poetically transformed
activity. "Something must happen / in our verses at least,"19
Boris Hristov proclaimed, thus pointing out the role poetry
was undertaking when actual life looked like a vacuum, designed
specially for the annihilation of any kind of human vividness
whatsoever. The communist regime seemed to have provided
an eternity - a dead eternity that was draining out lives,
dreams, talents. "A collective sleep on the parade square,"
as Konstantin Pavlov put it, adding, to enrich the image,
"Even dreaming is needless. / Someone else will dream for
and morals were to be preserved by keeping alert about things
which the overspreading grayness of life was tending to
obscure, then poetry was providing the only way. So, in
their artistic "travelings towards themselves" not a few
Bulgarian poets and writers found it possible to spiritually
survive only by means of achieving through literature visibilities
generally not seen. Thus the very nature of literature itself
was loaded with the additional significance of spiritual
salvation. What was different in this otherwise traditional
concept of literature was the desperation with which it
was grasped as a solution to living under the communist
regime. The same was true for literary translation (Valeri
Petrov, Krustan Dyankov, Nikolay Kunchev), as it was considered
to be a morally motivated, dignified art-life choice to
avoid painful realities.
brief allusion to American transcendentalism recognizing
"no distinction between art and life"21
suggests a way to express the main characteristic of this
trend in our literature at the time - namely, that Life
was more or less justified in terms of Art. The reverse
was also true - Art was justified in terms of Life too.
Moreover, some of the above mentioned authors even adopted
a role very similar to Emerson's formula of the Poet-Priest
(Alexander Gerov, Dimitar Korudzhiev, Radoy Ralin, etc.).
Their artistic "sermons" were very much needed when no prospects
for change and freedom were seen. The equation between art
and morals proclaimed in them went so far that even the
compulsory silence of poets like Konstantin Pavlov or Boris
Hristov began to look like a kind of a silent preaching.
a capacity to see beyond the visible and to poetically reveal
the generally not-seen, the poetic vision was for certain
Bulgarian writers of the time the way "to transcend" themselves
and thus to spiritually survive under late communism. Thus
the very transcendentality of the poetic vision itself became
overstressed as both a counter-official ideology and a counter-official
to American literary transcendentalism can only be brief
here, but it is enough to clarify the readiness on the part
of the most outstanding Bulgarian literati to embrace like
ideas as to both a way of living and a concept of art. The
longing for a worthwhile living had many faces, indeed.
But it usually came close to the Thoreauvian idea of building
oneself up to the height of one's own conceptions, thus
containing in itself the preparation for grasping the idea
itself. This kind of art-life experience was actually a
form of peaceful, individuality-preserving disobedience
to the totalitarian regime.
was exactly this atmosphere among the Bulgarian intellectuals
that made an eminent dissident philosopher announce in 1988
that "the great time of the intelligentsia"22
had come. The very nature of the intellectual activity itself
- creativity and the need for freedom and democracy inherent
in it - was already seen as destined to become the leading
force towards change. The hour had struck for the essential
characteristics of intellectual (spiritual) activity to
attain social significance and thus end the totalitarian
reality. Moreover, this would be done without physical force.
democratic achievements in the whole of Eastern Europe during
the last communist decades were primarily provoked and inspired
by the intelligentsia. Common - though in different degrees
- to all the countries in the ex-communist bloc, including
Bulgaria, these democratic achievements preconditioned the
"velvet revolutions" of 1989 by making the effectiveness
of nonviolent resistance - of civil disobedience - clear
political coup in Bulgaria was a nonviolent one, and so
too were the political events that followed November 10,
1989. After the decades of obedient behavior it was the
idea of civil disobedience that led the people to tremendous
"blue" (as opposed to the communist "red") demonstrations
in their wish for truth, for true Life. It was this idea
that led the university students in the summer of 1990 to
their strike, which was called in a newspaper of the time
"a symbol of the irreconcilability with communism [...]
the beginning of our velvet revolution."23
This collective act of civil disobedience worked because
it fulfilled the main requirement that justifies such conduct:
namely, that it "must always be based on moral grounds."24
The students were broadly supported by university teachers,
parents, writers, by most of the intellectuals. What they
started was immediately afterwards continued in the so-called
"towns of the truth," where actors, writers, musicians,
painters, scholars, and university teachers raised the slogan
of "Civil Disobedience." All these political events were
led by intellectuals. Their "great time" had really come
and - quite romantically tinted, as is understandable -
it appeared to be the great time of Bulgaria's civil disobedience.
Thoreau's Civil Disobedience was published by the weekly
Vek 21 in this very month, July 1990: this was exactly the
time when "the man of Concord" was politically - and morally
- mostly "concordant" with the social and the spiritual
disposition of a reviving Bulgaria.
was not the only one that was kept in mind in those days,
of course, the great examples of Gandhi and Martin Luther
King being widely known in Bulgaria. But it was Thoreau's
idea, in fact, that gave the shape - and the name - to the
peaceful resistance that set Bulgaria on the road towards
democratization. The spiritual disposition shared by the
outstanding part of Bulgaria's intellectuals proved itself
to be, in many of its political, social, and even ecological
nuances, good soil for Thoreau's art-life principles.
political reputation in the United States dates from the
1960s when the Americans came "to see themselves in a political
context": "The single most famous fact of Thoreau's life
had once been perceived as his going off to Walden Pond
in order to drive life into a corner; in the sixties that
was superseded by Thoreau's night spent in jail in order
to drive the government into a corner."25
Although much later, Thoreau's political reputation in Bulgaria
followed the same direction. During the totalitarian decades
the appreciation of Walden was always politically tinted.
Walden's "metaphoric solution to the problems of the marketplace,"26
i.e. to the problems of suppressing the human side of life
by the capitalist market, was usually taken in Bulgaria
to be a metaphoric solution to the problems of spiritual
survival in suppressive communist realities. Thoreau's equation
between literature and life thoroughly suited those of the
Bulgarian literati to whom the regime had left no actual
choice. Determined as it was by "personal and historical
Walden provided them with a metaphorical way of driving
life under totalitarianism into a corner. And when the time
came for the totalitarian government to be driven into a
corner and the Bulgarians came to see themselves in the
Eastern European context, Civil Disobedience was called
forth to give the name of the opening of the democratic
process in Bulgaria.
such preconditions, the appearance of a new Bulgarian translation
of Walden and Civil Disobedience was inevitable. And this
publication is achieving even greater significance in the
rather complicated, sometimes even misleading situation
in present-day Bulgaria, when support is needed by every
elevated spirit. Thoreau is sure to provide it.
Thoreau's writings have always been open to numerous interpretations.
The ones Walden and Civil Disobedience have provoked in
Bulgaria have always been related to certain periods of
spiritual emancipation. Moreover, the appearances of Thoreau
in Bulgarian both in the 1920s and in the late 80s and early
90s were actually called forth by these periods of spiritual
emancipation and thus, regardless of all differences in
political and cultural circumstances, gained a significance
that prevented them from remaining mere cultural coincidences.
Walter Harding, A Thoreau Handbook, New York: New York University
Press, 1959, 132.
Dimitrova, Travelling Towards Oneself [Bulg.], Sofia: Bulgarski
Pisatel Publishing House, 1961.
Tzaneva, Poet and Society [Bulg.], Sofia: Bulgarski Pisatel
Publishing House, 1980, 22.
Krustev, Etudes and Criticism [Bulg.], Plovdiv, 1894, 73.
Slaveykov, Selected works in two volumes, Vol. 2 - Essays
[Bulg.], Sofia: Bulgarski Pisatel Publishing House, 1958,
F. Timpe, "Thoreau's Critical Reception in Germany", Thoreau
Abroad. Twelve Bibliographical Essays, ed. Eugene F. Timpe,
Hamden, Connecticut: The Shoe String Press, 1971, 79.
R. Krzyzanowski, "Thoreau in Russia", Thoreau Abroad. Twelve
Bibliographical Essays, ed. Eugene F. Timpe, Hamden, Connecticut:
The Shoe String Press, 1971, 133.
Milena Tzaneva, Ivan Vazov [Bulg.], Sofia: Bulgarski Pisatel
Publishing House, 1980, 80.
Jerzy R. Krzyzanowski, Op. cit., 135.
Peter Deunov, Strength and Life [Bulg.], Sofia, 1990, 156.
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