Balkan Narratives

Balkan Narratives is a complex text, a contemporary meta narrative that offers a new key to the confusing and often tragic Balkan history, a new reading of the enigmatic Balkan world, its spirituality, its cultural contribution to world and European history. As the author points out, this book, created over the years, is open and incomplete, simply “… because the story of the Balkans (in tales, events, phenomena) is not finished. The history of the peninsula is not one, nor the only, no its narrator is one... The history of the Balkans and its narrators are confronted with the many perspectives through which the narrative is focused and contextualized ... "

And this narrative is undoubtedly colorful, vivid, filled with unexpected interpretations and re-evaluations of facts and events, viewed from a more ubiquitous height, allowing the Balkan picture to be "cleared" of irrelevant details and fading judgments of ambiguity. The ambition is to demystify the Balkan puzzle, or as the author calls it - the "knot", and to return to some of the original, archetypal concepts brought to us and to the common places of memory. Hence to intercultural dialogue in our multiethnic and multicultural topos.

The structure of Balkan Narratives is complex, multifaceted, mosaic, polyphonic, but also unique and unified in author’s quest for a new, overall rethinking of the Balkan cultural heritage. The first part logically examines the so-called Balkan paradigm or, how the Balkans view the world and how the world views the Balkans. A common denominator - regional / territorial Balkan identity, as well as shared memory places). The author referred in particular to the mythological figure of the "dead brother" as a "shared place" of the Balkan spiritual heritage, the figures of Black Arap, Bolen Doychin (Seek Doychin) and the Beautiful Angelina, the Balkan chronotype as synonymous with evil and a step towards good. Here she also examines the Balkan epic and cultural stereotypes, such as the stereotype of violence, the stereotype of allegiance, the stereotypical image of a Turk, contemporary imagological / national memories of the Turkish chronotype); Balkan memory places. That part of the study examining the Balkans through writers' perspectives is of special interest to the scholars in literature and scholars who are tempted in comparative literarature and reception theory, in Balkan regional cultural cooperation, and intercultural strategy as a form of economy.

In this sense, the messages in the book are also a proposal to overcome the historically inherited hatreds and discord in our small but turbulent peninsula, and thus the negative stereotypes that stifle the pursuit of understanding and a look into the future. At the same time, the study is a warning of the dangers of new reshapes and divisions, fragmenting not only national borders but also identity borders in the Balkans.

Clearly articulated proposal of Academician Katitsa Kyulavkova to write a common Cultural History of the Balkans is extremely valuable. Although such an initiative was taken in the early 1980s by the Cultural History of the Balkan Peoples Section at the Institute of Balkan Studies, BAS, it is regrettable that it was subsequently abandoned, due to the loss of some Bulgarian scientists, experts in this area, or due to awareness of the magnitude, scope and importance of such a task, the accomplishment of which can only be possible in cooperation between scolars in an international team of specialists. However, it is never too late to re-initiate and support this idea, which would highlight the common places in the Balkan memory. This might be the best way to get rid of stigmatizing stereotypes of the Balkans forever and to promote the Balkan contribution to European and world culture, its creative impetus and creativity.

According to the author, the dialogue on the pending issues of Balkan identities should be conducted with mutual respect (equal subjects, historiographical facts, arguments, common regional interest, a coherent interpretive paradigm). It is not possible to overcome immediately all the accumulated problems in the deficits of the mutual knowledge and recognition of cultural identity, especially when it comes to multilayered cultural and historical heritage. The Katica Kulyavkova’s initiative for proposal of projects dedicated to the topic of "Memory of the Balkans" and the drawing up of a "Balkan Charter on Shared Cultural Heritage” to be supported by UNESCO funds is worth to be considered and debeloped. I hope we have taken the first step towards this endeavor with publication of her highly sophisticated “Balkan Narratives”.

Yordanka Bibina