Pencho Slaveykov and his impact on Bulgarian culture

Photo: Архив
In early November, the Sofia-based St. St. Cyril and Methodius National Library opened an exhibition mottoed “A homage to Pencho Slaveykov”. The show is marking the 100th anniversary since Pencho Slaveykov was, one of Bulgaria’s greatest poets and intellectuals, was in charge of the library. Co-organisers of the event are the National Literature Museum and the Museum House of Petko and Pencho Slaveikovs in Sofia. The national library is showcasing many of Slaveikov’s own works, translations, manuscripts, documents, photographs, personal belongings, pictures, etc. Zdravka Nikovska, curator of the Museum House of Petko and Pencho Slaveikovs brings us the details.

“The first exhibition board is dedicated to his family and connection to his father Petko Rachov Slaveykov, a prominent journalist and enlightenment figure, as well as to his brothers and birthtown. Pencho Slaveykov was born in a beautiful Revival-style house in the town of Triavna. His father inspired in him a love for folk songs, stories and legends. Another board presents the relationship between our folklore and Pencho Slaveykov’s epic songs. Around the year 1900, he collected a number of Bulgarian folk songs in his Book of Songs, which came out posthumously.”

Book of Songs contains such works as “Inseparable”, “Ralitsa”, “Pestilential”, and “Dragon Sweetheart”. They are remarkable for their dramatism and poetic beauty. Their plots are interwoven by reality and fiction, which is very typical of the Bulgarian folklore tradition. Having studied in Germany, Pencho Slaveykov was strongly influenced by the European literature and philosophy. His works conveyed universal ideas, looking for their spiritual space in a then complex world. His interest in what’s immortal and universal could be found in a poem entitled “Cis Moll”, which was dedicated to Beethoven. His short poems in the collection A Dream For Happiness combined his most intimate reflections and philosophical insight.
The exposition in the national library also tells about his participation in the Thought Circle. The latter included Pencho Slaveykov, literary critic Krastio Krastev as well as poets Peio Yavorov and Petko Todorov. They contributed a great deal to bringing the European spirit to Bulgaria’s cultural life. The four luminaries authored and published in the course of 15 years (1892-1907) the Though Magazine, which would familiarize Bulgarians with the latest developments in art and literature. The magazine also published Slaveykov’s erudite and ebulliently-written critical reviews and features.
Photo: archive
The Thought Circle of intellectuals

The show also traces his work as a head of the National Theatre and director of St. St. Cyril and Methodius National Library.

“We haven’t failed to present a very important aspect of his life and spiritual journey, that is his love for Bulgarian poetess Mara Belcheva, with whom he entered into a relationship in 1903”, Zdravka Nikovska continues. “We’ve presented their joint translation of Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. For years on end, they also worked on Slaveykov’s Bloody Song. Although he spent almost his entire life on it, he could not finish the work. It was because of that poem that Swedish professor Alfred Jensen, a member of the Nobel committee, proposed in January 1912 that Slaveykov be awarded a Nobel Prize. His proposal fell through, because a few months later the Bulgarian poet passed away in Italy”.

In the summer of 1911, Education Minister Stefan Bobchev fired Slaveykov from his leading position in the library. The poet left the country only to die in the Italian town of Brunate in May 1912. In 2007, the town erected a new monument of the Bulgarian luminary.

English version: Vyara Popova

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