The Commune of the Dead Or An Elegy to Sofia’s Bloody Shirt


Lenin and Company[1]

On the second floor of the house, I have turned the tea room into my workroom, with always available boiling water and black tea bags and all kinds of the herb drinks; the balcony is here too, accessible, overlooking the courtyard and the street, to smoke a cigarette in the open air. Smoking is not allowed in the house, except for the e-cigarette that Yana smokes herself. Probably if Yana smoked a cigar, now any kind of smoking was forbidden in the house except cigars. My kitchen is downstairs, on the ground floor, where I have to go to make tea (if I am not satisfied with tea bags) and to make food. The Next Page office is on the ground floor, where Yana and Victor often come every day to get their work in order. Yana is the director of Next Page, and Victor is her colleague, who is well-known among Sofia writers, not because of his writing, because he is not an author at all, but because of the rare books which he finds for book lovers. Ivanka Mugilska later tells me that Victor could find a book for you, even if only one copy was available in Bulgaria.

Here I am the guest of Next Page Foundation, a writer and translator in residence. Of course, Vaptsarov has invited me, maybe Mayakovsky, or Lenin, or it's better to say the Commune of the Dead Communists. A year ago I think, I was translating Mayakovsky's poem "Vladimir Ilyich Lenin" and reading articles on communist literature that I came across in a new name: Nikola Yankov Vaptsarov. By a simple Google search, I found an English translation of Vaptsarov's poems and I began to read them: How could I not have known such a great poet before? A wonderful poet, a poet with only one book of poetry, who was shot at the age of thirty-three, in a prison in Sofia (where we later go with Velina Minkov, and Velina cannot hold back her tears, in grief over the death of a poet who was shot seventy-seven years ago). It was Vaptsarov's poetry that introduced me to Bulgarian literature, to poets and writers who would later become my great friends, to a country that would become part of my soul and body. Yes, now I'm here, in the house of the painter Nenko Balkansky, who was given to me by Next Page, with the invisible invitation sent to me by the Secret Society of the Dead Communists: Vaptsarov, Mayakovsky, Lenin, and Company.

Yana invites me to go at night in a café in the woods, in the middle of Liberty Park, now renamed Boris Park, as if people no longer even want the "freedom" of communism. At first, I was supposed to take a walk in Boris Park at nine o'clock and reach there, but then Yana remembers a murder that took place in this park years ago, and probably she fears of the headlines of the Bulgarian tomorrow newspapers, she is scared and says that she will come to pick me up and take me there herself.


An Iranian writer was killed in Boris Park

The Socialist Party demands an explanation from Yana Genova


Julia Vladimirova reports:

From Nikola Vaptsarov to Farid Ghadami: The Murder of Intellectuals in Sofia

I think if Yana Genova had imagined Iranian newspapers instead of Bulgarian newspapers, she would have easily made an appointment with me in Boris Park at twelve o'clock at night: heck if they had cut off my head and hung me from a tree in the park!

Etemad newspaper's revealing report:

Murder of an Iranian writer because of his connection with the Mafia


Shargh newspaper examines:

The obscene communist writer was killed?!!!


The yard is very big, I ask Victor why you do not make a garden in the yard to plant vegetables for yourself. He says that this decision should be made by Yana. "It's a good idea, the problem is that we don't know how to grow vegetables," says Yana. As I say, I know. Yana says, so think about this hazelnut tree in the yard, which is full of hazelnuts, but all of them are empty. Well, the solution is NPK fertilizer: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. When I look at the yard soil, most of it is made up of buried construction debris. Empty soil. How can a poor tree be expected to bear fruit in such a soil?

Immediately we get in Yana's car and go down the main boulevard of the city and head to an agricultural shop where I pick up some fertilizer soil suitable for the garden I am going to build and a few Fertilizer for hazelnut, quince, and cherry trees, and a few packages of vegetable seeds and four strawberry plants. We go back to the house, my shared house with Balkansky, I still do not know Mayakovsky also is with us in the house.

Yana has to visit her mother and leaves to come back at 9 o'clock. I go to the second floor to drink two or three cups of tea and in the attic shave my face and take a douche so that it will be the turn of my first Sofian nightour.


Yana arrives on time, with her SUV car from the 1990s. We drive to the forest café, which is also very crowded: it is a large area among the trees, with a scene with a few people performing a nonsense tasteless show, I do not understand, of course, Yana says their program is nonsense and tasteless, and I trust her, If she said it is funny, I had to laugh for sure. It has not been more than twenty minutes since we sat in the open air when it suddenly rains heavily, a terrible thunderstorm, on the first day of August. Everyone takes refuge in the roofed parts of the bar, staring at the sky to see when it will rest. When the rain stops, we walk in the park and talk about everything, including politics, history, literature, and our personal adventures, and our great common love: cigarettes.

Yana talks about a friend who is a professional athlete who also smokes and believes that smoking prevents many diseases, such as Parkinson's. I say oh, I have always felt from the depth of my heart that smoking is very good for my health, but I have never had the opportunity to prove it, and to this day it has been more a matter of faith than science. We have learned this from Soren Kierkegaard that faith acquires a higher knowledge than science, and of course, I prefer not to extend what I have learned from Kierkegaard to anything beyond smoking.

Boris Park is a huge park that covers a large part of the city. Yana shows me a piece of the park that is a tennis court, the court that Yana remembers it with her father's memories who was a tennis champion, a father whose death came very soon, and now Yana seems to be looking for him in this part of the park, where maybe her father has left the ball and gloves and just now he is about to come back and pick them up.

I will walk in the park again and again: with most of the Bulgarian writers I see in Sofia: Vladimir Poleganov and Yanitsa Radeva introduce the park sculptures to me: statues of great Bulgarian poets and writers, as well as the memorial to Russian soldiers in the middle of the park: Soldiers who helped liberate Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire; Velina Minkoff tells me about the first days of the park's opening to the public and the pubic hairs of randy lusty people were opening to others in dark corners of the park; We talk with Ivanka Mugilska about the birds in the park: I say that with all the trees in Sofia, I find it surprising that there are not many birds in the city; Ivanka also says that there are not many trees left in Sofia, most of which have been destroyed by the development of the city. But this is not the case: Sofia is full of birds. My mistake is to measure the presence of birds by their sound: because I do not hear their sound I think they don't exist. In Sofia, the law of silence prevails: from ten o'clock at night onwards, no one has the right to speak, cafes and bars are closed so as not to disturb the sleep of the citizens who are early birds and wake up at dawn; It is quiet everywhere during the day: even the birds obey the law of silence, so seriously that you do not think they exist at all.

It reminds me of a story that happened in the Soviet Union about the statue of Stalin: the statue of Stalin had become a popular lavatory of birds: but the party could not arrest and convict the birds, or makes them get TV confessions:


Prosecutor: In front of the people, do you confess that you have defecated on the statue of Stalin?

Seafood: Cada Cada.

Official translator of the party: Da da, he says, yes yes.

Prosecutor: From whom did you get paid for this work?

Crow: Croak Croakare ... Croak Croakare.

Official translator of the party: says Poincaré, President of France.


And finally, in revolutionary action, the party decides to connect electricity to Stalin's statue so that any bird that desired to defecate on the statue of the leader will be punished immediately.


I see a group of girls and boys in their twenties and I wonder why Bulgarian boys and men are all short-haired, not just short but rather bald? I ask Yana, does this beheading of boys and men have anything to do with racist tendencies or something like that? Something like Skinheads in America, for example? He says, yes, sometimes. I say, who is the aim of their threat then? He says Jews, Muslims, LGBT people and blacks. "Of course you should not worry about them, because you're too beautiful," she added. Wow! So that's it! So what if I am not beautiful in the eyes of one of them? At least ten thousands of writers, translators, and journalists in Iran are willing to testify that I have the ugliest face they have ever seen, provided that the Bulgarian skinheads promise to take appropriate action against me as soon as possible. Here, in Sofia, it seems beauty can protect you. Of course, now that I think I suspect Yana has spoken very pessimistically about her city: I do not see any trace of violence or racism during all my stay in Sofia, I'm inclined to say in Bulgaria.

We go to the center of the city and we go through a narrow alley where there is an old door as if there is the news behind it: we knock on the door and after a minute or two one opens it. It is a night cafe, dark, with no light except candlelight. The floor is covered with sawdust. I want to go to the toilet, "there are no tissue paper and candles there" says a girl who has just come out of the toilet. It is as if I have entered another city, another time, another era. The cafe is like another world. Dark and gloomy, but intimate and quiet. I do not want to leave it. Yana says it used to be a printing press, and there are rumors that Georgy Dimitrov, secretary-general of the Bulgarian Communist Party and prime minister of the communist government between 1946 and 1949, was working here during his childhood, before going to Moscow.

The café is known to the people of Sofia as Хамбара, Khambara, meaning barn. Yana says that the cafe's regular customers, like her ex-husband, have the key to the cafe and do not knock on the door. The darkness of the cafe seduces me at my heart: In the darkness and under the light of the candles, people are more similar: it is not very easy to understand the color of their skin and hair, the brand of their clothes, and the wrinkles and hairs on their face. There is more equality between people in the darkness and maybe that is why I am so fascinated by this cafe that I think it was not the printing house, I tell Yana, but it used to be a 'barn' and by the passing time 'n' has fallen and now it has become a 'bar'. Even now it looks like horses are waiting for me outside to sit on their saddles. Where should I go? Maybe I will join the Hyducs in the Pirin Mountains, to their struggle against the Ottoman Empire.

Bulgaria is not a rich country, it is said to be one of the poorest countries in Europe, but Sofia is a happy city, full of cafes and restaurants that are always full of people who prefer to spend their free time together. I remembered Henry Miller's quote from Tropic of Cancer: "I have no money, no resources, and no hope. I am the happiest man alive." Of course, I have not seen the outskirts of the city, the outskirts where poor gypsies are said to live, five to six percent of Bulgaria's population. In Latinka I sometimes see homeless people looking for their livelihood in the trash bins: I have seen this picture thousands of times more in Tehran: the picture that tells you can not feel Happiness and prosperity as long as even one person is hungry in this world. I tell Yana a memory: at university, once I told my students that only the money for perfume and cologne that Americans wear could save the whole of Africa from starvation and disease. "Professor, the smell of your cologne always comes to class earlier than you do," One of my students shouted.

We come out of the bar and since Yana does not want to drive again we go to the street to take a taxi. We are standing right in front of a big club: the club that Yana says may belong to the Mafia; she says this by seeing blonde girls wandering the club with very short skirts to attract customers. We sit in a taxi and Yana talks to the driver and then gets up laughing and tells me to get off. Why? The driver asked Yana for a double fare and when Yana asked why the driver said that the people who take a taxi here in front of such a club do not care about the double fare.

We walk for five minutes and reach another street: it is past midnight and taxis do not travel much on the street. Taxi fare in Sofia is cheap: for example, if I take a taxi from the city center to my house on Latinka Street, it will not cost more than six leva: about three euros, which is about thirty thousand tomans, which is not much more expensive than in Tehran, but it is incredibly cheap compared to other European capitals. Different taxis operate in Sofia, Yana says the best is OK:

  • Remember, OK taxi is always ok.
  • Oh, Ok!

We stand on the side of the street to take a taxi: Yana suddenly laughs! What has happened? "That the woman who drives her car looked at you so much that she was deviating!" She says. Wow! One's self-confidence increases here! Hats off to Bulgarians! We take a taxi, one for me, one for Yana. My fare is five lava. I get off in front of my residence: In a small window in front of my house, some of my books are displayed, including my translations of Bulgarian literature, introducing an Iranian writer and translator who lives now in this house: Фарид Гадами.