/Detelina Kamenova, media relations, International Elias Canetti Society, journalist/

/Peter Denchev, author of “Rewind“/

Peter Denchev was a guest on the last day of the festival, October 9. Equally good as a writer and a theatre director, he is not just a teller of interesting stories, but their stager. We presented his latest book, Rewind.

  • What do you think gives a literature festival the strength to survive for 15 consecutive years?

Above all, adaptability, interest in the new, the opportunity to see and meet new authors, new texts, to read new books. There is hardly anything as stimulating as the desire of people who organise a literary festival to see the fruit of their labour – the authors live, the texts read. And of course, this consistency is impossible without character and perseverance. Congratulations!

  • What do you know in particular about the festival organised by the International Elias Canetti Society and what is its place among other literary festivals in Europe and Bulgaria?

What do I know? Actually, I have been indirectly following the programme of the festival since its very beginning. I think the starting year was 2007 or 2008, if I’m not mistaken. And over the years the festival has become one of the most important literary events in the country. Moreover, it is not just a “book” festival, but a festival that gives real importance to how literature lives. I must also admit that literary festivals in Bulgaria were rather taboo until 20 years ago. Such forums with a contemporary character, in which the author comes with his works and his integrity, began to appear after 2000. Before that there were meetings, symposia, readings, but a literary festival like Plovdiv Reads, like the Sofia International Literary Festival, like yours, are practically something very new for the Bulgarian cultural context. Otherwise, I have been to a number of regional literary festivals – Kikinda Short in Kikinda, Serbia, Another Fairytale in Skopje, Macedonia, Cutting it Short in Belgrade, Serbia, and I think that the festival that the International Elias Canetti Society organizes is not inferior to the regional scene.

  • Why does the writer, the poet, the artist in general, need to meet live with an audience and be presented at festivals?

Reading fiction is an intimate act. Except for those genres such as playwriting or epic poetry, which are meant to be performed on stage and in front of an audience, the rest of literature is read in solitude. That is why it is very important to think about how to recreate this act in a public atmosphere, how to bring the intimate into the public. That’s why it’s very important for the writer, and any artist of verbal expression, to meet the public in person, to travel to festivals. In theatre, where I also work, creating performances, we see our audience, we see their immediate reactions, whereas with literature it is not the same. A literary work may even remain unpublished and meet its audience after the death of the author, but that doesn’t make it any less significant. But as long as we are alive and have the opportunity to travel with our books, we should do so.

  • What do you expect from the live meetings with the audience in Ruse?

In a way I know the city, even one of my novels is partly set in Ruse. Along with that, I know the attitudes of the theatre audience as well as the literary audience, because other books of mine have been presented over the years. I look forward to seeing old familiar faces, but also new ones. I expect to hear what those who have read the book think.

  • What should the audience expect from meeting you?

Only unexpected things. I usually tell different stories, I try not to repeat myself.

  • Where can more space for artistic interpretation be found, in real life or on social media?

I don’t think that distinction could be made at all. At least, because the convergence between real life and social media has already been almost fully realized. We have the complete blurring of the boundaries between the real and the virtual, and alongside this we see that electronic media completely dominate the public order in Europe. Look at how even our sensibilities have changed – twenty years ago we were embarrassed by cameras, by camera lenses, and today we shamelessly photograph even the most intimate parts of our private lives to make them public.

  • How do you see the geographical boundaries today, when the world is experiencing tremors of different nature?

I have never considered geographical boundaries to be something significant. When I was younger I used to travel through books, I used to spend hours and days hanging over geographical maps and atlases, I knew in detail the topography of Bulgaria, and the exact height of the highest mountain peaks. I loved to read about new places, about travelling, I even read travel guides about places I had never been. When after 2001 it became possible to travel more easily from Bulgaria, after the Schengen visas were abolished, I enjoyed it immensely, and lately I have been rediscovering the region – Serbia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania. But it is worrying what is happening with political borders. Places remain places, but politics brings them into a new context, given the tremors of your question. What would we do if we found ourselves facing a new iron curtain? This is perhaps a question that all Bulgarians should ask themselves. And to answer for themselves afterwards which side of the iron curtain they would like to be on.