Yesterday together with a friend of mine we interviewed Alexander Shpatov – the most promising contemporary Bulgarian author. Wrong, we didn’t actually interview him, we chatted with him over beer, wine, and pizza. I got to know Alexander the writer, Alexander my ex classmate, Alexander the lawyer, and Alexander the dreamer. We talked casually about literature, books, libraries, the future, the past, our friends, everything. And of course we discussed his last book – Calendar of Stories.
Lately the mediocre and undeveloped Bulgarian culture is witnessing its long expected boom. Movies, TV Series, books, all of them show us that the Bulgarian indeed has talent. I, as a patriot, made it my goal to see and read everything the home talent had to offer. I enjoyed Karabashliev’s 18% Gray but Shpatov is better. Not because he is an ex-classmate of mine and not because he is very cute. Shpatov is just entertaining, witty, humorous, ironic, sarcastic. He combines reality with fantasy to arrive at stories about the urban life in Sofia. After all, at the end of the day we are overwhelmed with the American culture and lifestyle. We (ok I) want to read something about Bulgaria, about the Bulgarian character, the Bulgarian issues, the Bulgarian lifestyle. Karabashliev focuses on the clash between home and foreign by following the path of a lost soul through the vast lands of USA. Shpatov offers a different perspective, more enjoyable I must say. He takes us on a journey through the 12 months of the year, each with its own story.
To summarize the collection of stories is impossible. Yet, what all of them have in common is the surprising end. Sometimes it’s real, sometimes fantastical, but what it does show is Shpatov’s immer imagination. I asked him whether the stories are based on real events. No. All of them come from his mind. Yet, he shared, that after writing certain stories, some of them indeed happened to him.
Calendar of Stories is Shpatov’s third book and the most successful one. 12 stories about each of the 12 months plus additional two for Easter and Christmas. Why exactly these two holidays? Because they are the most important, says Shpatov. I can’t say which one is my favorite. Probably July. Because it talks about a short-cut to the seaside. Because its ending is unexpected and fantastical. Because we are always looking for a short-cut to somewhere with just a mouse click. We want to arrive there (where?) faster, without superfluous efforts. We want to cheat the system, to find something no one else has, to be better, stronger, more honest, more real, more of everything. With Shpatov I arrived at a place where hard work and hope meet, where the talent can flourish in the body of a lawyer, where your constant struggle and desire for development take you exactly where you must be.
This meeting (not interview!) was inspirational. I will be re-reading Shpatov’s stories over and over again because I feel that I have missed something. In fact, I believe that the second time I read Calendar of Stories, it will be a completely different book with completely different stories. Maybe next time I will have another favorite story, which I incidentally missed the first time. Maybe one day Shpatov will interview me. And I will return the gesture by giving him an autograph. Maybe. With a mouse click.