“East of the West: A Country in Stories”: The Interplay of Identity and Exoticism in the Short Stories of Miroslav Penkov

  • Abstract:

    This essay focuses upon a set of questions that arise from the subtitle of MiroslavPenkov’s collection of short stories, East of the West: A Country in Stories (2011): what does it mean to claim that ‘a country’ can be found in a collection of stories? What kinds of cultural and historical knowledge do the stories convey through their representations of specific situations, persons, and motivations? How do representations of a country offered in a powerful foreign language enable and constrain understanding of the formal trajectories of the stories as well as the underlying referential gestures to a particular geopolitical space, to highly particularized cultural and historical contexts? How is the narrative voice itself, as realized in each story, created out of the evocation (overt or tonal) of memory, longing, and humor? Penkov offers a complex and compelling performance of one writer’s inhabitation of two cultures, languages, and literary traditions in this, his first published collection.His familiarity with both Bulgaria and the States enables him to play upon, without blindly assuming, the position of mediator and translator.