Bulgarian Literature

Bulgarian literature, term for the first written monuments in Bulgaria from the 8th / 9th centuries. Century.

These are chronicles (expanded by philosophical memorabilia) as well as building and grave inscriptions of proto-Bulgarian rulers and nobles in Greek, rarely also in the Turkic language of the proto-Bulgarians.

Old Bulgarian literature

On the basis of an Old Slavic dialect that was spoken around Thessaloniki, the Slav teachers Kyrillos and his brother Methodios (from 862) created a written language for Christian missionary work among the Slavs in Moravia. To do this, they put together their own alphabet, the Glagolitsa, on the basis of which (based on the Greek alphabet) the Cyrillitsa emerged in Bulgaria at the beginning of the 10th century.

The old Bulgarian (Old Church Slavonic) translations of the Bible, liturgical texts and the nomo canon, a collection of ecclesiastical and civil laws, from the Greek go back to the two Slavic teachers and their students.

After Methodios’s death, expelled from Moravia, the students of the Slavic teachers came to Bulgaria, where Prince Boris I had accepted Christianity from Byzantium. Some (including Kliment, * around 840, † 916) were sent to the western part of the country to Ohrid, where they worked as writers and teachers.

In Pliska, the residence of Prince Boris I, as well as in Preslaw, where his son Simeon I had moved the Bulgarian capital, other students of the Slav teachers were active, including Konstantin von Preslaw (* around 845, † around 930), Ioan Exarch and Chrabăr, from whom the treatise on the defense of the Slavic script “O pismenach” (end of the 9th century; About the letters), which is also widespread among the Russians and Serbs, comes, which testifies to the self-confidence of the newly emerged Slavic culture and education.

An anthology, translated from Greek sources, goes back to Simeon I, who had received an excellent education in Constantinople, and which had a lasting impact on the medieval level of education not only in Bulgaria, but also in Kievan Rus, where the volume later reached.

The reign of the rulers Boris I and Simeon I is considered the golden age of Bulgarian literature.

Central Bulgarian literature

The transition from Old Bulgarian to Central Bulgarian (Church Slavonic) began during the Byzantine rule (1018–1186). During this time the Apocrypha, but also life descriptions, were translated from Greek into Central Bulgarian. All the historical chronicles of this period that have come down to us are also translations of Byzantine works.

Bulgarian literature experienced a second heyday during the 13th and 14th centuries, when a literary school emerged from an Orthodox monastery founded in 1350 near the new capital Tărnovo. This school included Kiprian (* 1330, † 1406) and Konstantin von Kostenez (* around 1380, † around 1440), who brought the spirit and formal principles of Bulgarian literature to Russia, Romania and Serbia after the Turkish conquest of Bulgaria. In addition, literary schools arose in Vidin, on Mount Athos and in other Bulgarian monasteries, where v. a. Translated from Greek.

The most important author during the period of Turkish rule (from 1396) was Wladislaw Gramatik (* around 1415, † around 1480), whose writings give an impression of the country under Turkish rule. Folklore developed which was aimed at the preservation of the Bulgarian folklore, which adhered to Christianity. From the 15th to the 18th century, the Catholic literature of northwestern Bulgaria played a not insignificant role, helping to secure a certain independence for Bulgarian literature of that time. As a reflex to this time of the national and individual struggle for survival, the historiography and autobiography in particular later became popular forms, which are still among the main pillars of Bulgarian literature today.

New Bulgarian literature

National rebirth

According to best-medical-schools, the numerous copies all over Bulgaria spread “Slawobulgarische history” (“Istorija slavjanobălgarska,” 1762, printed 1844) of Athosmönchs Paissi of Hilendar is the prelude to national revival. As autobiographical counterpart wrote in 1803 the Bishop Sofronij (* 1739, † 1813) his work »Žitie i stradanija grešnago Sofronija« (German »Life and Suffering of Sinful Sofroni«). The third main pillar of Bulgarian literature is the Enlightenment literature, which served to build up a school system and educate the people (including the real encyclopaedic primer by Petăr Beron, * 1800, † 1871, and in 1835 the first Bulgarian grammar by Neofit Rilski, * 1793, † 1881).

A kind of aesthetic literature developed from around 1860 onwards under the sign of the liberation struggle against the Turks. Her pioneering authors to this day included G. Rakowski, the poet Dobri Tschintulow (* 1822 [1823?], † 1886), whose patriotic songs were sung again during the peaceful revolution in 1989/90, P. Slawejkow and C. Botew and der Narrator L. Karavelov.

After the liberation from Turkish rule (1878), literature carried by patriotic pathos initially predominated; I. Wasow described the April uprising of 1876 in his novel »Pod igoto« (3 volumes, 1889–90); the conflicting problem of rapidly changing social reality found its fictional representation in the works of T. Wlajkow and A. Straschimirow .


After that, an opposing trend began, which made use of satire. A. Konstantinow introduced the satirical hero into Bulgarian fiction with his proverbial »Baj Ganju« (novel 1895). At the same time, the writers P. Slawejkow , P. Jaworow and Petko Todorow (* 1879, † 1916), which were founded by the literary critic K. Krăstew , headed the magazine »Misăl« (Gedanke, 1890–1907 ) with their works in which they modern ideas of European intellectual life took up, symbolism and neo-romanticism. Other representatives of this direction were the poets T. Trajanow, N. Liliew and D. Debelyanov . In prose, realism continued to prevail, including: with A. Straschimirow , G. Stamatow , Elin Pelin and J. Jowkow, whose work reached a new high after the First World War. As a literary historian, inter alia I. Schischmanow also received international attention.

Interwar period

After the First World War, G. Milew emerged as a representative of Expressionism originating in Germany. The new means of the grotesque used among others. Tschawdar Mutafow (* 1889, † 1954) and S. Minkow ; A. Karalijtschew and G. Rajtschew hid realism without illusions behind the mask of dreaminess. He wrote historical novels, among others. Konstantin Petkanow (* 1891, † 1952). Rantscho Stojanow (* 1883, † 1951) and S. Kostow gained importance as dramatists. In poetry, Christo Smirnenski (* 1898, † 1923) expression of the post-war situation with revolutionary poems that made use of symbolic stylistic devices, whereas A. Dalchev made the sharp contours of the everyday world and their hidden meaning visible. Other important poets were among others. E. Bagrjana , Nikola Furnadschiew (* 1903, † 1968) and N. Wapzarow. The critic Wladimir Wassilew (* 1883, † 1963) collected most of the important writers of the interwar period for his magazine »Zlatorog« (Cornucopia, 1920–44).

Post-war and present

After the Second World War, the communist totalitarian system severely restricted artistic freedom; Nevertheless, works were created that went beyond the officially prescribed »socialist realism«. To be mentioned are v. a. the novelists D. Talew, D. Dimow and E. Stanew, who had already emerged before the war. One of the most important works of this era was I. Petrow’s novel “Chajka zu vălci” (1982; German “Wolf Hunt”), which illuminates the tragic dimensions of life. Other important prose writers were Pawel Weschinow (* 1914, † 1983), B. Dimitrova , W. Mutaftschiewa and J. Raditschkow. Science fiction novels were written by Ljuben Dilow (* 1927, † 2008) and Chaim Oliver (* 1918, † 1986).

The most recent prose is v. a. by the names Alexander Tomow (* 1944), Wladimir Sarew (* 1947), Viktor Paskow (* 1949, † 2009), Iwaljo Ditschew (* 1955), Dejan Enew (* 1960), Alek Popow (* 1966) and Georgi Gospodinow (* 1968) marked.

The poetry was enriched by works with very different handwriting by V. Petrow, A. Gerow , Stanka Pentschewa (* 1929), Konstantin Pawlow (* 1933, † 2008), Lyubomir Levtschew (* 1935), Nikolaj Kăntschew (* 1936), Iwan Zanew (* 1941), B. Christow, Iwan Metodiew (* 1946, † 2004), Georgi Borissow (* 1950) and Mirela Iwanowa (* 1962).

In the drama have V. Petrov, Nikolai Chajtow (* 1919, † 2002), Ivan Radoew (* 1927, † 1994), Georgi Mischew (* 1935) and J. Radickov done remarkable things.

The literary critic B. Deltschew drew an unvarnished picture of the Bulgarian cultural scene since the end of the Second World War with his extensive diary written for the drawer (“Dnevnik”, partial publication 1995).

Bulgarian Literature