Bulgaria’s literature can be traced back to the second half of the 8th century and was initially primarily of a religious nature. Next to it a rich folk poetry developed in the form of fairy tales, folk songs and legends. Turkish supremacy prevented the literary development of the monk Paisij published “The History of the Bulgarian Slavs” in 1762. A national literary rebirth took place in the 19th century. This one had rebellious and national romantic content.
Important prose writers of the 20th century were Dimitar Dimov and Georgi Misiev, and lyricists Elisaveta Bagrjana and Georgi Dzhagarov. In 1981, Bulgarian-born Elias Canetti received the Nobel Prize in literature. Key names in modern Bulgarian prose are the writers Jordan Radichkov and Dejan Enev.
Medieval and early modern times
Bulgarian literature is the oldest of Slavic literature and was founded by the students of the slave apostles Kyrillos and Methodios in the second half of the 800s. It was almost exclusively religious-didactic, written by Byzantine patterns. At the same time, a very rich oral folk poetry developed in the form of folk songs and fairy tales. Among the Bogomiles, an apocryphal legendary poetry emerged with national character.
The supremacy of the Turks prevented further development, but a rebirth began with the history of the Athos monk Paisij the history of the Bulgarian slaves (1762). In the first half of the 19th century a Bulgarian poetry arose. Najden Gerov (1823–1900) represented sentimentalism and addressed popular and national themes in his poetry, for example in the poem Stojan and Rada. He also published the first major Bulgarian dictionary (5 volumes, 1895-1904).
The 1800s and early 1900s
Throughout the 19th century, it was the growing national liberation movement that determined the development of poetry and gave it its rebellious and national romantic content; most significant was the lyricist Khristo Botev. During this time, the prose was also developed by, among others, Ljuben Karavelov (1837-1879) and Vasil Drumev, who wrote the first Bulgarian novel, An unhappy family (1860). Drumev also founded the Bulgarian dramatic tradition with the realistic historical play Ivanku, Asen I ‘s killer (1872).
During the liberation struggle in the 1860s and 1870s, realism broke through, partly under Russian influence. Life under Turkish rule characterized literature in the 1880s ( Ivan Vazov, Zakhari Stojanov, 1851–1889; Konstantin Velichkov, 1855–1907). Pentsjo Slavejkov wrote in the 1890s the great poem The bloody song about the revolt in 1876. Todor Vlajkov (1865-1943) gives a realistic picture of the peasant life, but not without idealization. A sharp social tendency is found with Aleko Konstantinov (1864-1897) in the satire Baj Ganju.
From the end of the 1890s, modernism also prevailed in Bulgarian literature, with symbolism as the dominant direction in the period 1905–1918, affecting, among others, Pentsjo Slavejkov and Peju Javorov. Symbolist lyricists were, for example, Teodor Trajanov (1882–1945) and Ljudmil Stojanov (1888–1973).
The interwar period
After World War I, social realism and revolutionary pathos penetrated again. Several former “decadents” and symbolists became involved in the social and political conflicts and became Marxists and socialists, such as Khristo Jasenov (1889-1925). Socialist lyricists were, among others, Dimitar Poljanov (1876–1953) and Nikola Vaptsarov (1909–1942), while the modernist, more individualistic tradition was carried on by fellow prominent novelist of the interwar period, Jordan Jovkov.
People’s Republic (1946–1991)
In the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, Stalinism asserted itself with demands for socialist realism. Most significant is Dimităr Dimov (1909-1966) with the popular novel Tobacco (1951). Elisaveta Bagrjana (1893–1991) wrote national, anti-fascist lyric. The slow “de-stalinization” of 1956 made conditions easier.
Most notable was the renewal within poetry. This was true of both older generation lyricists such as Dora Gabe (1886–1983) and Lamar (pseudonym of Lalju Martinov, 1898–1974), and of the middle generation, among others Blaga Dimitrova, Bozjidar Bozjilov (born 1923), Georgi Dzhagarov (born 1925 ) and Pavel Matev (1924–2006). These include a personal and individualistic theme.
Georgi Misiev (born 1935) portrayed the problems of emigration and urbanization in the novels Matriarkat (1967) and the Summer House area (1976), and the epigrams of Radoj Ralin (pseudonym of Dimitar Stojanov, 1923-2004) became public property.
Later innovators of Bulgarian prose have above all been Blaga Dimitrova, with his intricate storytelling technique, and Jordan Radichkov, with his baroque and fabulous short stories. A new name in the 1990s was Dejan Enev (born 1960) with Human Hunter (1994, Norwegian edition 1997).