Irina Papancheva, a Bulgarian writer living in Brussels, writes equally well in her native language and in English. On Wednesday, October 3, she will present her novel “Brussels Naked” at the Austrian Library. Expect a portrait of the European capital – one you won’t see in the news.



  • What do you expect from the 16th edition of the literary festival under the motto “The Dream of Reason…” (based on Francisco Goya’s “The Sleep of Reason gives birth to monsters”)?

I look forward to meeting other authors and the exchanges I hope we have. Of course, I’m also looking forward to the launch of ‘Brussels Naked’, and I hope my book will reach more readers.

  • When the future is seen as something distant and well-protected, when the consequences of great breakthroughs, revolutionary discoveries, innovations, etc. are not foreseen, what damage can they do to the lives of humanity? Is this, in fact, grounds for daily anxiety?

We are all witnesses to this damage – to the planet, the environment, the individual, the community. But the wheel of evolution can hardly be stopped, even when it is seen to be leading to destruction and regression. In life, in history, everything is cyclical, and it seems as if the alternation of these cycles cannot be avoided. Yet, I think many things are within our control. Anxiety doesn’t help, and it solves nothing. Individual and group awareness is the key, but is it achievable? How many of us can give up the dividends of today for an abstract future?

  • How do you perceive artificial intelligence – as a help or a hindrance in your profession? Are you afraid of it?

I’m not afraid of artificial intelligence becoming a competition to human typists. Writing techniques and techniques can be learned. But talent comes from God, and artificial intelligence cannot imitate it. And even if it does, can we deeply connect with a work that is not based on a knowledge of suffering? And how many imitations can we bear? I’m more worried about AI potentially gaining independence, in any field.

  • Reading and book publishing – which is ahead, which is steps ahead and how should it be?

These days, book publishing is very much a production seeking to satisfy mass taste and meet demand. This is understandable – publishers need to be able to sustain their business. But they also have a mission to educate taste and give way to non-genre authors who produce quality literature. Fortunately, many of them do. Sadly, though, fewer are being read and, consequently, many more books are being published than are being read.

  • Writers (or those who call themselves writers with ease) are multiplying. What are the good and the not-so-good aspects of the accessibility of book publishing today?

On one hand, it’s nice that authors have options for turning their manuscripts into books, including self-publishing. But on the other hand, almost everyone today feels that their life is meaningless if they don’t write and publish a book. And many succeed. And the reader must navigate the ocean of published literature. It’s harder for a book to gain visibility and reach readers unless it’s nominated in contests or the author puts enough time into self-promotion. The notion of quality, of literary work as art, is blurred.

  • Should the writer, the artist in general, be a factor in politics? Whether your answer is YES or NO, justify it.

If politics attracts him, why not? But by my personal point of view, artists can change the world and express their position through the art they create. Politics inevitably draws you in and sets you a line of thinking and expression that risks undermining creative freedom.

  • What will you present at the Literary Festival? Give us more details about the book we’ll be reading from, more about the idea of writing it, and in particular, what will you engage the audience with in advance?

“Brussels Naked” is an experimental novel that I wrote first in English. Each chapter is named after a neighborhood in Brussels where the action takes place, and has a different narrator with a different nationality, race, religious and social background. Although the chapters are almost self-contained, the characters connect, the stories find their endings, and the result is a whole that is Brussels. The city I chose to live in, exactly twenty years ago, and which has become my destiny. And for my characters. At the literary festival presentation, I will show a video that contains many of the places and even scenes described in the book.