Original title: Отвътре
Original language: Bulgarian
Number of pages: 200
Published by: Ciela
Release date: 2014
Rights contact: Literary Cooperative
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What do Osama Bin Laden, the Bulgarian revolutionary Vasil Levski and Radoslav Parushev have in common? All three of them are characters in Parushev’s novel From the Inside.
About the book
Sofia in the spring of 2014, the first days of World War Three. A snap parliamentary election in which the Sports Block has the best chance is imminent. Against a backdrop of these dramatic and historic events, the population of the poorest and most corrupt country in Europe furiously focuses its energy on filming and watching TV soap operas and ‘exceedingly unique reality formats’. The victim of a frame-up, our hero is sent from the fake, rotten world of Bulgarian television directly to prison, where there is only brutal reality and only one way to survive: not caring about anything.
With his topical themes, characteristic high literary style and uncompromising, aggressive language, Parushev, famous not only for his six previous books and undisguised predilection for Dostoyevsky, Eco and Borges, has this time taken a serious crack at writing a bestseller.
A novel in which the contemporary Bulgarian reality is presented as a comic-disgusting TV show, from which you cannot get out. The only salvation is going down. In Hell, which is always closer than we imagine. Parushev knows how to give us laughter as first aid against disgust.
—Boyko Penchev, Kapital
At the same time at a restaurant forty yards to the north that had opened up in the former royal palace, which before then had been a Turkish police station, at a table sat two people, who for their whole lives had in principle eaten shit, albeit metaphorically – otherwise they had eaten more or less normal human food, depending on the times – now, for example, the times were quite good, one of them, let’s call him the Big-Time Producer, was having a bite to eat, delicately spearing carpaccio on a bed of speck, seasonal arugula and oyster mushrooms, sprinkled with a dressing of cherry tomatoes, marjoram and caramelized baby carrots. His dinner companion, the Delegated Producer from TV8, was having homemade mascarpone on a block of seasonal paella, baby avocado and fresh golden olive oil steeped in coriander. So it’s not like eating shit in real, non-metaphorical life.
“You do realize that you’re fucking me over completely with that 500K kick-back you want, right?” The Big-Time Producer knit his brow and wiped his lips with an elegant napkin.
“Take it or leave it, man,” the Delegated Producer from TV 8 laughed with his mouth full. “You’re the one who wants to make a movie about Levski, not me. I don’t want to shoot anything. TV8 will give you the money if I approve the project in the TV’s name. I know how the scheme works, what part of it don’t you understand?”
The Big-Time Producer is one of the main characters in this book, a man who looks fifty-ish (who actually is only forty-five, but snorts a lot of coke and gets drunk off his ass – more than three times a week – he really loves greasy red meat, and besides, in the spiritual sense he has been eating shit his whole life and his sensitivity to the subtler vibrations from which God has created the otherwise wonderful universe are approaching nil), long-legged, tall, slightly hunched, with graying hair, tousled with gel and slightly back-combed like a North American boy-band singer aged eighteen max, most often sporting a stylish black suit with pleasant white or dark-blue shirts (he’s now wearing a black shirt under his black suitcoat, but it doesn’t look bad, on the contrary, in Bulgaria there are more than eighty men, born and raised in homes with outhouses who after that have learned how to dress, and the Big-Time Producer is one of them) and with an indescribably smug glance, which, combined with a junkie-ish gleam, an obvious intellect (slightly below average), obviously well-educated (beyond any shadow of a doubt), and purplish-brown dope-fiend bags under his eyes, creates an especially unpleasant general impression. You might like such a person, but most people I know don’t. Which doesn’t prevent most people I know from kissing his ass when they meet him, because the Big-Time Producer on the whole has a lot of money, and when he’s in the mood, he deigns to give some of it to others –not others like him, but mere mortals.
Levski, who was mentioned a bit earlier, for his part was a tall, blue-eyed hero of the nation where the action is taking place – the ideologue of the populace’s unsuccessful national liberation movement against the Turks, the founder of a conspiratorial revolutionary network modelled on secret societies, which had set itself the goal of overthrowing Turkish rule, while as a result of several quick betrayals, said revolutionary network was completely liquidated by the Turks several weeks after they learned of its existence. Nothing bad should be said or thought about Levski, especially since during 1873 he was betrayal by his people, caught by the Turks, tried and hung in Sofia. Except that for some reason in the nation which he dreamed of freeing from enslavement it is permissible to write indecent things about Levski on the walls – tens of thousands of his countrymen do it every day with impunity.
Levski really was a true patriot, a hero and the national genius of Bulgaria, but the subsequent use of his image on the part of his mediocre descendants has reduced Levski, a mere hundred years after his demise, to nothing more than a vulgar slogan on the walls of most of the ugliest Bulgarian buildings. In precisely this capacity – as an icon showered by the vulgarities of mediocrity, Levski will be mentioned in this book several more times. While you are reading this, in downtown Sofia, in the place where Levski was hung, a Bulgarian citizen of Roma descent stole yet another (the next to last) bronze griffon from Levski’s monument, while another Bulgarian citizen of Bulgarian descent, a policeman, looked on and did nothing, since he was concerned with something more important.
Several years after Vasil Levski was hung, the Russian empire successfully waged war against the Turks and granted freedom to the populace of the nation in question, which opened for said populace a wide window on Western civilization so that this populace could in the end turn into a group of people who run around like crazy looking for parking spaces, tow away improperly parked cars like crazy and the rest of the time film themselves like crazy in TV soap operas and watch TV soap operas.
“But you see, that way I’m left only with a million, can’t you do the math?! With a budget of 1.5 milion, if a give half a million to you, I’ve got to shoot the whole film for a million. About Levski, no less, who is a national icon, for fuck’s sake. Are you even Bulgarian at all? No, really, tell me, what kind of Bulgarian are you?”
“I’m a normal Bulgarian, a realist. And you can spare me the patriotic bullshit! Didn’t I see your budget breakdown, huh?! A hundred and seventy-five thousand for costumes? Come on! Gimme a break!” We’ll describe the Delegated producer from TV8 very briefly as follows – in every sense he resembled the Big-Time Producer (albeit ten years younger) far more than he resembled Vasil Levski.
“In what sense?”
“In the sense that you can blow me – as if I’m a rube and don’t know very well that you’re gonna barter for those clothes, directly from the importers and makers, like you always do!”
“Shit, are you mental or what? This is a period show! A costume drama! How the hell am I going to barter with clothes makers when my action takes place in the 19th century? What brand do you think makes and sells that kind of clothes now?”
“OK, OK, fine! Don’t get so worked up about it, I’ll give you a deal. We’ll subtract the costumes from my cut. Partially. With 75,000 for costumes you’ll still be fine. I want a four-hundred thou commission and that’s my final offer, Don’t scowl at me like that! Four hundred thou or you can kiss Levski’s ass goodbye!”
“Look, the problem is… my problem is that…”
“Your problem is that the more you give to me, the less there is left for you to steal, don’t think I don’t understand the source of your problems! So let’s see here – how much have you put down for screenwriters – 100 bucks a day! Utter shamelessness!
“If you of all people, who have been in this business for the last fifteen years, swear to me hand on heart that you can’t find screenwriters for 30 bucks a day, I’ll do two things simultaneously – one is that I’ll make a call and tomorrow morning you’ll have at your beck and call a platoon of enthusiastic, hungry screenwriters, ready to work not for 30, but for 20 bucks a day, and the other thing I’ll do is become even more convinced that in the end you are an even more unscrupulous liar and thief than everyone says you are.”
“Well now, in principle you’re right, but this is a matter of principle – there are more hungry screenwriters than you can shake a stick at, but still, they’ve got to be literate, I mean, they have to be really good –this is Levski we’re talking about, after all.”
“Levski, CSKA, I couldn’t give a flying fuck about any of ‘em, man, to tell you the truth!
“You can always make something an even cheaper way and they’ll still buy it. People are super stupid, never forget that!”
At the same time, four meters beneath the restaurant and 135 years before the scene described above, Levski tries to kill himself by running at the southern wall of his cell and bashing in his head. He wants to kill himself since he knows very well what is inside a person, he knows what in inside himself as well and does not trust himself to not give away the remnants of his conspiratorial organization during the interrogations that the Turks will begin the next day. The blow to his head is strong, but not enough to kill Levski, who loses consciousness and falls to the floor of his cell, his head bloodied.
About the author
Radoslav Parushev was born in Sofia in 1975, graduated in law from Sofia University in 2000 and practises intellectual property, telecommunications and new technology law. He founded his own law firm, Ovcharov & Parushev, in 2008 and is consultant to the Council on Copyright, a Ministry of Culture advisory body.
The notorious magazine Egoist dubbed him ‘the best writer of his generation’ before he’d even published a book, thanks to his numerous stories published in various media, in 2003. Along with Toma Markov, Stefan Ivanov and Momchil Nikolov, Parushev founded the informal literary group ‘fastlit’ (burzaliteratura) in 2004. As part of ‘fastlit’, he has taken part in several literary tours, including public readings and literary performances in Plovdiv, Pazardzhik, Blagoevgrad, Ruse and Sozopol, at its Apollonia Art Festival in 2005, and dozens of literary readings in Sofia.
Bulgaria’s Association of Writers, an organization protecting the interests of young Bulgarian authors, elected Parushev to be its first Chairman of the Board at its inaugural meeting in 2010.
Parushev won the Rashko Sugarev Prize for best short story in 2003 and has been nominated for the Helicon Prize four times, twice for the Ministry of Culture’s Hristo G. Danov Award, and shortlisted twice for novel of the year.
Outstanding awards and distinctions
- 2003 – Rashko Sugarev Prize
Short story collections
- neverbeunhappy / Никоганебъдинещастен (2004)
- Project GigaMono (2007)
- Life Isn’t for Everyone / Животът не е за всеки (2011)
- Death Isn’t for Everyone / Смъртта не е за всеки (2012)
- For Smokers Only / Само за напушени (2017)
- Pursuit / Преследване (2005)
- Project Dostoevsky (2009)
- From the Inside / Отвътре (2014)
- Raped by Miracles: the Unauthorised Biography of Eagles of Death Metal / Изнасилени от чудеса: неоторизираната биофрафия на Ийгълс оф Дет Метал (2019)
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