Saturday, November 26, 2011

[November 26th] A Night Among the Bulgarian Cultural Elite

Yesterday was the official book launch of Angel Angelov’s “The Act of Walking on Water”, a pleasant affair, though a bit lengthy, highlighting the release of a slim collection of shorts. I randomly learned about the event thanks to a newsletter from my favorite bookshop in Varna “Shakespeare & Friends”, which organized the event, provided wine and a buffet to boot. The event, given the capacity of the bookstore, was successful with over twenty people attending, which is a full house in my book. 

Unlike most readings/launches I have been to [my experience is limited to this year’s Fantasy Con] the emphasis fell down on dialogue between the author and the guests, rather than any of the stories. Angelov didn’t read his works, nor did he discuss his collection. I felt no attempt of a sales pitch either, which I found so very different from what I’m observing in the West as behavior during such events. 

From what I gathered, Angelov is a well-established niche author, one of the difficult ones to read, so there is no appeal for him to generate any hype. His built-in audience, no matter how small will track his works and to me it seemed that this audience consists of other intellectuals rather than mainstream readers, although that may not be true. If it is true, then that confirms my belief that the Bulgarian literary community is close-circuited as evidenced by the number of creators in attendance [literary critics, painters and theater folk]. 

The downside of this particular book launch was that it was more about the author rather than the book or the potential readers. I understand that with friends and personal acquaintances as the majority of the audience, there would be no incentive to ‘sell’ the collection, but at some point the event became as a sort of gathering to venerate Angelov and his strengths, which I considered to be tasteless, albeit good-natured and probably well-deserved. What I also didn’t find all that enjoyable was the tactless use of the space, where the author seemed to overstay his welcome in the bookstore. Obviously, from my conversations with the bookstore owners, there were no negotiated terms on how long the event should have lasted. 

Even with these small imperfections, I had a good evening, which turned me into more of an active participant in the event as I had to translate in real time, from English to Bulgarian and from Bulgarian to English, as the bookstore owners are both English speakers. Also, I was the night’s oddity, being the only person under thirty [even under forty] interested enough to stay and have a few chats. Business cards were exchanged, photos were made. All in all, a great evening for meeting the Bulgarian cultural elite. 

Your turn. Tell me what event you were recently? Did you like it?