I am very happy that I have had the chance to get to know Irina Papancheva’s creative work. In her country a literary critic has called her “the Bulgarian Francois Sagan”. Do we find in Irina’s writing the “charming little monster from the French new wave”? I doubt this. Her universe seems to me far away from the rich and disillusioned world of Sagan.
I have now translated three of Irina’s works into French from English: the novels Pelican Feather and Almost Intimately, and her short story, No One. In these works, I found human beings fighting for their existence, often in very difficult conditions. They use short phrases, vibrant dialogues, an oral, everyday language, punctuated by poetic passages. They pose open questions with no hint of moralising. All this is set against the background of Bulgaria’s social and economic situation. Irina’s deep love of Bulgaria and its culture – for which she is a wonderful Ambassador – is woven like a thread through her writing. Her work has awakened in me a real desire to visit the country.
The main narrator in Pelican Feather is Martin, a ten-year-old boy. The first sentence he writes in his diary is: “First my father left us.” This is also the first sentence of the novel. He then takes us naïvely but sincerely through the rebound and his “confusion of feelings”. What can be more banal than the disintegration of a couple? It is a statistical banality. It’s banal, when it happens to others.
By following Martin’s description of everyday events, we reach the conclusion that everyone is right, that no one is to blame. And we learn that pelicans are magical birds which bring us the light we need for our lives to be beautiful.
I wish Irina and her Pelican Feather good luck!
We will now continue with a short film that sets the scene for her book, as well as a short video of the author herself, discussing the book. Then we will read from it.