Beatrice Speaks to Antoaneta Nikolova of Bulgaria
Antoaneta Nikolova.

Beatrice Speaks to Antoaneta Nikolova of Bulgaria

An Associate Professoron Eastern Philosophyin South-West University, Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria, Antoaneta Nikolova's main interests are Eastern Philosophy, Philosophy of poetry and Philosophy of ecology.

By Beatrice Lamwaka
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First published: September 11, 2010

Antoaneta Nikolova was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. She is Associate Professoron Eastern Philosophyin South-West University, Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. Her main interests are Eastern Philosophy, Philosophy of poetry and Philosophy of ecology. She is an author of four books of poetry; “Liquefied Light” (1994), “Tales for Unnamed Beings” (1998), “Green/Mirror” (2003), and “Breathing” (2008), with support from Open Society Foundation, Sofia and Ministry of Culture. She has published a philosophical - poetical research “The Language of Void” (2003) for which she received National Fund of Culture. She has also translated more than 15 books in field of philosophy and cultural anthropology from English to Bulgarian. She has translated Old Chinese to Bulgarian, “Poetry of Mountains and River”, which was nominated for translation of the year (2003). She writes critical reviews of contemporary Bulgarian poetry in Bulgarian magazines for literature and she is an editor for poetry for an online magazine “Nota Bene”, issue of the Center of Study and Distribution of Philosophical Ideas, South-West University. She has organized two Haiku conferences South-West University with international participation.

Antoaneta Nikolova with Beatrice
Antoaneta Nikolova with Beatrice.

Antoaneta was a writer in residence at Le Chateau de Lavigny Writers' residency in Switzerland where I was also a resident for three weeks from end of August to early September last year. Le Chateau de Lavigny International Writers' Residence was founded by the late Jane Rowohlt in memory of her husband, the German publisher, Heinrich Maria Ledig-Rowohlt. Her wish was to bequeath their home, the Château de Lavigny, for a writers' residence offering and fostering "a spirit of international community and creativity."

Beatrice: What is Eastern philosophy?

Eastern philosophy is a wide term which has different meanings according to the aspect under consideration. It may include the ideas of Near, Middle as well as of Far East. Usually it signifies philosophical ideas of Ancient India and China. It is known that philosophy began its development simultaneously in three parts of the world – Ancient Greece, India and China. Greek philosophy, combined with Christian theology, is the fundament of Western philosophy, i.e. the philosophy, developed within the frames of European civilization. Indian and Chinese philosophy, despite of their differences, represent another kind of philosophical thinking. Usually Eastern and Western philosophies are considered as oppositions. The main difference between these two kinds of philosophical thinking concerns the relation between subject and object. While Western philosophy insists on their separation, Eastern philosophy emphasizes their unity.

Beatrice: Since you are interested in philosophy, is your poetry philosophical?

I think I always combine my philosophical and my poetical thinking. So, my philosophy is poetical and my poetry – philosophical. But it is philosophical in terms of Eastern philosophy. It means that there are not philosophical speculations. I try to convey the ideas of unity, mutual relations and holism which I find in Eastern philosophy and which are in accordance with my own inner understanding. And also I try to hold on to the rule of old Chinese masters – less words – more meaning.

Beatrice: When did you write your first poem?

I imagined my first poem when I was 3 to 5 years old. It was the last day of the year. The New Year was coming. I was very excited because I was waiting for Santa Claus (In those years in Bulgaria Santa Claus didn’t come on Christmas, but on New Year ’s Eve… And his name was Grandfather Frost). I loved him very much. And I said my first poem to my parents and they wrote it down. At that time I used to stand while I was saying my poems and felt them as a light passing through me.

Beatrice: Do you write your poetry in English?


Beatrice: Have you translated your poetry into another language?

I tried to translate some of my poems into English and Russian. But it is difficult. Sometimes it happens, sometimes not. There are poems which are easy to translate and there are poems which are almost impossible to translate. In translating my poetry I get assistance from my friend Emilia Georgieva.

I have some of my poems translated into German, Hungarian and Greek; and some of my Haiku translated in English, French, Russian and Japanese languages. In English and French they are translated by my friends who are poets; Lyudmila Balabanova and Axiniya Mihailova. Some of my poems have been translated in Hungarian by Hungarian poet and friend of Bulgaria, Gyorgy Szondi. For others I don’t know.

Beatrice: How have you benefited from your experience at Le Chateau de Lavigny?

I have enjoyed very much my experience at Le Chateau. I could say there were benefits in three aspects: It is an extremely beautiful and quiet place. I was happy to look at its views (Lac Leman, the Alps, Mont Blanc, the orchards), to walk along the lake, among the vineyards and apple gardens, along rivers and through forests, to see how the water is sparkling somewhere in the distance, how hazelnuts and walnuts are falling into grass.

The writers at Le Chateau
The writers at Le Chateau.

People here are very nice. Everybody who accept us here, especially Sophie, Susan and her husband, Hoan and all other wonderful people gave us their warmth and love. And my new friends here are so lovely. Everybody is so different and so beautiful. Now we have our shared moment.

And, of course the main benefit is for my work. I began to write on my new project and I am happy that it is going well. Everything here somehow supports my writing and I feel deep trust to this place.

Beatrice: How does it feel to translate other people’s books?

It is always interesting to try to understand some other’s way of thinking. And it always provokes my own writing.

Beatrice: Would you like it if someone translated your books?

Of course.

Beatrice: What interests you about Haiku?

I like this, which may be called “philosophy” of haiku as well, as the way in which it is expressed. I like the simplicity of Haiku and its openness to interpretation, so that the reader is a co-creator of its happening. As a little grain it contains huge universes.

Beatrice: Should we expect some Haiku books from you?

I hope so and this was one of my purposes to be here.

Antoaneta Nikolova
Antoaneta Nikolova.

Beatrice: What are you working on at the moment?

Now I am working on my fairy children book.

Beatrice: How is publishing in Bulgaria?

Publishing of Bulgarian writers in Bulgaria is a difficult thing. From one side everybody may publish his/her book if he/she pays and there are too many books. From the other side Bulgarian readers don’t like too much to read Bulgarian writers, so there are few publishing houses which publish contemporary Bulgarian writers. Besides they have to pay huge tax on Bulgarian books – 20%, more than tradesmen have to pay for cigarettes for example. Book shops take almost half of the cost of a book. So it is not an easy deal.

Beatrice: Do you receive any support from the government?

Each year there are different kinds of competitions which aim is to support publishing houses in issuing of books.

Beatrice: How do you see yourself as writer in 10 years from now?

With more books in prose, books with haiku and many translation in different languages.

Beatrice: Many thanks and all the best Toni.

Many thanks and all the best B.

By Beatrice Lamwaka
more from author >>
First published: September 11, 2010

Beatrice Lamwaka
Beatrice Lamwaka is finalist for the PEN/Studzinski Literary Award 2009. She is the author of Anena's Victory, one of Fountain Junior HIV/AIDS Series, a supplementary reader in primary schools in Uganda. Her published short stories have appeared in Gowanus Books, Women's World website, WordWrite-FEMRITE Literary Journal, as well as anthologies such as Words From a Granary, Today You will Understand, Aloud: Illuminating Creative Voices, Michael's Eyes; The War against the Ugandan Child FEMRITE publications. She was one of the pioneers of a British Council writing scheme that links Ugandan writers with established writers in the UK, and she is a member of Uganda Women Writers' Association (FEMRITE). She is currently working on her first novel and a number of short stories.