On my way to Germany in September last year I read some information in your in-flight magazine about a new novel to be published in Bulgaria by Christopher Buxton in both English and Bulgarian – “Far from the Danube”, as well as an interview with the author. I was delighted two months later to not only to be able to buy the book, but to be present at the presentation ceremony by the author in the Helikon bookshop in Burgas!
A lot of time has expired since this pleasant and memorable evening. During all this time I wanted to express the warm feeling, which the evening itself left, but also what I felt about the book when I had read it. Various reasons delayed my letter to you.
Chris Buxton presented the 3 reasons for writing the book convincingly very wittily. I found 3 reasons not only to tell you and the author that I have read the book with pleasure, but to explain in greater detail why I liked it. The reasons are as follows:
1. Having written a few things (from a different nature) myself I know how important it is for every author to receive feed back for their work. I want to add my feedback to the many others, which you in the magazine and the author must have received by now.
2. As a teacher of Literature and a person, who loves books I am used to analyse what I have read. I did this as I was reading “Far from the Danube”. I will only put in writing now, what I thought at the time. I may be going in a direction, different to the one the author has aimed at, but this will only show how multi-layered a book can be.
3. This is the first analysis I have done of the work of an author, who is still alive!
“Far from the Danube” is not a novel in the general sense of the word. It is not a historical chronicle of times long gone and little known to the non-specialists. It is not a follow up through time and space of the nature, character and habits of a strong woman, who in the name of love overcomes all physical and moral sufferings, in order to remain true, to be herself – a Bulgarian, brought up with the songs of her people, strengthened by the resilient roots of her Boyar clan and her ability to keep forever the smell of the earth of her birth place.
“Far from the Danube” is all this and something else – it is a message from the distant past to our time. Describing the violent and troubled years, during which the novel takes place (1396 – 1461) with the bloodshed, the coercion, the enslaving and the trampling of human dignity in the name if invented, false values, the author throws a bridge towards present–day Europe, at a time not less difficult, but difficult in a different way, as if he wants to tell us:
P Every human life is equally valuable, wherever it had originated
P True love always wins, regardless of the obstacles put in front of it
P One of the most valuable treasures the human race possesses is that of mutual assistance.
Simple, well-suffered, but often forgotten truths!
The composition of the novel is also very interesting. Every chapter starts with a historical reference with extremely interesting details of the historical period and personalities. So, if you read just the initial references (something I did when I finished reading the book) in front of the reader is spread a broad panorama of the time, which has formed the basis of the writing of the novel. This gives the action authenticity and makes it realistic.
The heroes of the novel – especially the main character – are not presented in the familiar sequential way, they are revealed gradually, but somehow unexpectedly. Sometimes you have the feeling that something is missing in their motivation for one or another action. And quite a few pages later the missing jigsaw piece appears, and it completes the picture. I would compare the reading of the novel to standing in front of a picture of an Impressionist painter. When you look at it from close by, you see various different fragments. When you look from further back, it affects you completely in its brightness.
The language is lively and figurative. I took note of some very interesting and memorable comparisons. I am sure that in its original English it sounds much better, because it is a well known fact that the translation can be better of worse from the original, bit never the same.
At the end I would like to thank the author for the emotion, with which he describes the image of Maria Iskra and wish him a second, third , etc re-printing of the book. I also wish him inspiration for your second book. I hope you will be able to pass those to him.
With best wishes–
Radostina Ivanova, Burgas email@example.com