Petar Denchev is a Bulgarian writer, theater director and publicist. He graduated from Directing for Drama Theater at the National Academy of Theater and Film Arts in Krustyo Sarafov in 2010, and in 2017 - a master's program in Theater Arts. There are nominations and awards from various poetry, prose competitions ("Development", "Svetstroy", "Veselin Hanchev", "Ecstasy - Altera Magazine"). Recently, he received a nomination for the Flight in the Stoyan Kambarev Art Award. With her novel "Like a Man Kisses a Woman Who Loves", she won the competition for a new Bulgarian novel, Development, in 2007. Later, she published a compilation of short stories, Stories of the Past (2010, Jeanette 45). ) and the novel The Quiet Sun (2012, Janet 45). There are publications in periodicals, translations of stories in Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia, Germany and the USA.
He has staged performances on the stages of most of the major theaters in Bulgaria (I. Vazov National Theater, A. Konstantinov Satirical Theater, S. Bachvarov DT - Varna, S. Ognianov DT - Ruse , G. Milev DT - Stara Zagora, etc.). In the period 2017 - 2018 he was a playwright of DT "Stoyan Bachvarov". In the theater, he has worked on texts by authors such as Edward Albee, Jordi Galseran, Sarah Rool, Shakespeare, Moliere. His performances have toured at various festivals and forums in Serbia, Romania, Kosovo and Montenegro.
Last month, Petar Denchev's new novel, "The Little God of Earthquakes," came out. What topics are covered in the book, as well as more about the author, his previous works, and his activity as a theater director, can be found in the following conversation.
Who is the "Little Earthquake God"? Is faith the "small" response to the crisis?
The question is very sympathetic because there is an intuition in the novel about the god as being present "beyond." In practice, this is a response to the crisis of life, to the idea that we represent monolithic personalities that are made up of our will. Very often we are made of many more things that result from much more social and cultural transmission than our own choices. In this sense: faith as a primordial human effort and response to that desire for ordering the world when it rests on the irrational.
How do traumas, earthquakes, conditions affect a person, his or her faith, and how do relationships between personality and environment find expression in the novel?
One of my initial beliefs is that a person is made up of traumas, he is in a sense scattered between lacks, between desire for wholeness, between emotions and reason, between history and personal experience. Not all individuals may experience this life in this way, but the Bulgarian man has been torn apart over the last thirty years by those contradictions that are more or less characteristic of the break between pre-modernity and the modern world. In some special way, this is not as tragic as dramatic, because these contradictions in our national world (which is already part of the global) are experienced to the fullest extent of their conflicts. I think the more we manage to live far from the dogmatic, the more we find personal comfort - so the novel speaks. He acquires a degree of metaphysics that borders on the absurd, but also on the rational, as an expression of the desire for self-realization.
Most recently, the poet Aksinia Mihaylova received the prestigious French award "Max Jacob" with her book "The Kiss of Time". This is the second prize from France, after the Guillaume Apollinaire Prize in 2014, and the second book written directly in French. The news is ...
If the voice of Utopia and the voice of dystopia intersect in the Quiet Sun, what are the voices in The Little Earthquake God?
Social voices, voices of outsiders observing the life of a post-socialist society. Voices who would not want to focus so much on the nullity of the everyday, but at the same time realizing that this nullity is somehow decisive for place and mentality. Conservatism around the world not only determines social choices, it defines both political and aesthetic ones. In this sense, the novel is very Bulgarian and wonders how a fragile consciousness, an atypical sensitivity to the world in conditions like ours, can survive.
What divides and collects the voices: social, social contexts, individual positions? How does polyphony turn into narrative?
Looking for a way to talk about the personal, the individual case. As a person and author, I am not one of those who believe in shared stories. Great narratives can be very difficult for me to influence, though I believe in their power. The only way I know of a literary wholeness to construct a great narrative is through the flesh of personal, even sense, sensation. Something I still tried to convey in The Quiet Sun as an intention - I was looking for a way in which dictatorship, prohibition, could puncture personality through physiology. I think that future ideologies are ideologies of physiology, disguised as the social.
But this is out of the question - Bulgarian life as super-traumatic knows many levels of combining social context and personal choice, combining insurmountable extremes, or forming dysfunctional relationships. And all this because of that bit of conservatism that insists that one must change, not by necessity, but by inevitability. This is one of the personal themes of the protagonist who understands that the world he lives in is damaged in its construction and content. But he is not trying to save him, but is looking for a way to live life to the fullest in the whirlwind of his personal crises. And to remain somehow whole.
In an interview with Antony Dimov, you mention that the long work on the text is the reason for seven years to pass from The Quiet Sun to the publication of the new book. How did the weather affect the writing?
I think I spent a full period of writing, of accumulating material, of information, of content. Some of the motives in the novel appeared at the last moment, others came much earlier. I am one of the people who is inclined to learn on the go. I love to learn at any moment in my life. And in this case, writing was such a moment because it made me explore moments from myself that I looked at from a completely different perspective. In this sense, the weather has been more than positive.
To what extent do the stories you tell build the cities we live in, and how much of the stories you write are about appropriated cities, for lives that have already been told?
Honestly - I don't know! All I know is that what I'm saying seems to happen to someone. But I guess that's the illusion of collective memory. As confident as you can be in your own power, you always have the feeling of repeating yourself somewhere - that you are following in someone else's footsteps, that you are running away from your own, and ultimately returning to where you were already inevitable. It sounds a bit suicidal, but it's actually life-affirming when you realize you're not alone in this world. As much as we want to be the absolute sources of our own lives - in fact, we are the result of interactions.
How does writing a story look like Emilia's glass (from your eponymous story) - the subject matter through which one life passes into another?
Writing stories, in any case, is an overflow of life. Even overcoming it.
photo: Toni Perec Photography
In the first story in Past Stories, recently published in German, Malakoff, I Want to Get Old, the character changes his attitude towards aging. Does the direction of life change the person or does he choose where to go? Do you find the direction of the story changing the character or is he predetermined?
These are already very private issues. Directions of living change many things. As much as we try to manage our lives, it is somehow always defective. And in this meeting of opposites there is more charge than in programming.
However, the "Little Earthquake God" turns to the man who is aging with the transition, to the stories of the present, to what is happening here and now. What did you find about the present in the research and writing process? What are some of the issues we can't get around today?
What are we doing with us here and now? Where are we? This choice, which predetermines us, how much is our own? Don't get me wrong, I am an infinitely liberal person, but I think the civilizational affiliation and political freedoms that Bulgarians have received over the last thirty years do not go hand in hand with their civic maturity and understanding of the individual and its integral part in society. We are in a strange hybrid conflict between east and west, and it probably won't be us who will make the choice for ourselves. This will be done by outside forces, because we realize too late that this choice is on the agenda.
How do you read the current and its place in your development: through the conscious, through the experiment, through the experience with the theater?
It is curious that if someone did not ask me these questions, I could hardly formulate my own development and current ones at all. Honestly, what is current to me is not relevant to us here, in this society and in this territory. I am interested in the place of man in digitalization, in a hybrid world in which we are about to interact more and more with machines, and perhaps merge with them. These are challenges to human survival and perhaps much of archaic knowledge, as a collective memory, will be destroyed at the expense of other new civilizational approaches. We cannot go on endlessly with concepts such as national and its content as the only important. I will say again - just as a person is not self-generated, a national culture is not the result of internal movements only, but of transfers, influences, loans. My own development, I think, can only be conceived through curiosity. This is probably the basic quality that defines me. I'm too curious.
After the blast premiere, Sarah Kane mentioned to the Guardian that the theater had no memory and that made it the most existential of all the arts. In the productions you direct, in stories and novels, your memory and history are problematized. What provokes such a choice insofar as it is conscious? How do you handle memory through different arts and works?
Yes it really is. Memory is also sentiment, but not always sentiment is memory. It concerns me insofar as what determines our identity can be as flexible as it can be stretched under the pressure of time, of circumstances.
I remember the January 1997 protests, and I remember the blockade in Varna. On television, they broadcast about blockades in other cities. And just a few months earlier, with the money saved, I was able to buy a Chinese iridium pen, which was a big gain for me. Then I kept a diary and I remember the events. Of course, none of it is stored.
The idea is that the situation at that time largely determined my perceptions of the social. Later, when I participated in the protests of 2013 - 2014, I argued that behind these protests should be sat political forces to propose new ideas, new forces. That didn't happen. Public energy dissipates and apathy ensues. Later, when I installed the One-eyed King, we somehow recovered the protest energies with the actors; and when they play this show, they continue to revive them. But I'm not sure how lasting the memory is. We are a society that is hard to remember. Or forget easily.
Speaking, crawling through spaces of identity, awareness and alienation. Because of the urgency, did you choose "The Dead Man's Phone" and "One-eyed King" in the works? What did you bring in your creative plan? What are their reviews?
Proper observation. Precisely because of the urgency. Because I had to talk about these topics. Theater is an exceptional tool when you have followers to channel public and foreign energy because it updates the shared life of the audience and the performers in one space. In this sense, both performances made me go on many personal paths. Not only because I made them in my hometown, but also because they met me with artists with whom we had something to do together. It is also rare for a person to speak in a creative language with an artist, composer and actor so quickly. In my opinion, the topics of identity are more or less late in Bulgaria compared to the common European movement, but it is still nice that I had the opportunity to touch them.
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