The ghosts of history are still too viable and are exploited unscrupulously by populist charlatans for manipulating people and their emotions.
Writer Alek Popov in conversation with Montenegrin journalist Vujica Ognienovic about his latest novel “The Palaveevi Sisters: in the Storm of History”. Critic defined it as the first partisan novel written after the fall of communism in Bulgaria. The novel brings back to live an almost forgotten world – especially for the new generations whose knowledge about communism and the civil conflicts during 2nd WW is pretty vague. The interview was first published in the Montenegrin newspaper Vijesti.
1. What was the challenge for you to write the novel “The Palaveevi Sisters –in the Storm of History?”
It turned out that this is still a very touchy matter, an aspect of history that is still very much alive – something I didn’t fully realize in the beginning. Writing about this recent past inevitably evokes the ghosts of painful memories and unresolved conflicts, thus provoking strong passions from different and often opposite directions. The theme is so heavily loaded with propaganda and all sorts of taboos that opening this door is like entering a minefield. Especially if you approach the past with a sense of humor! The label of “parody” is constantly pending over such books, but literature has a long tradition of exposing the absurd and grotesque side of war. Great satirical novels such as Jaroslav Hashek’s The Good Soldier Schweik and Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 have inspired several generations and still remain relevant.
2. What is the historical background of your novel?
When I was a child, my grandmother used to recount the Sofia bombings during WWII, mixing her stories with fantastic elements, making them sound almost fairytale-like. These stories left an indelible mark in my memory. Here probably lies the subconscious source of my interest in this period and in the subsequent decades. Later on, as a teenager, I grew up with partisan novels and films, which were the adventure stories of the times. They were key elements of the propaganda machine, too, but at that age I didn’t care much about ideology. When I started working on the novel several years ago, I had to go through many files from that period, but this time as an adult determined to confront the myths of his childhood. I paid close attention to the “documented” side of the period’s history, examined memoirs, police archives, military records and historical places in order to recreate authentic surroundings in which my story and my characters can grow and develop. I believe that research and development go together, they interact and mingle, thus making the process of writing an exploration in itself.
3. The genre of this novel is a partisan novel. It is unusual to write a partisan novel, seventy years after World War II. How do you explain