A comic classic of world literature, Aleko Konstantinov's 1895 novel Bai Ganyo follows the misadventures of rose-oil salesman Ganyo Balkanski ("Bai" is a Bulgarian title of intimate respect) as he travels in Europe. Unkempt but endearing, Bai Ganyo blusters his way through refined society in Vienna, Dresden, and St. Petersburg with an eye peeled for pickpockets and a free lunch. Konstantinov's satire turns darker when Bai Ganyo returns home-bullying, bribing, and rigging elections in Bulgaria, a new country that had recently emerged piecemeal from the Ottoman Empire with the help of Czarist Russia. Bai Ganyo has been translated into most European languages, but now Victor Friedman and his fellow translators have finally brought this Balkan masterpiece to English-speaking readers, accompanied by a helpful introduction, glossary, and notes.
Aleko Konstantinov (1863-1897) was a well-traveled Bulgarian journalist and political writer. He was killed by an assassin's bullet while riding in an open cab. In 2003, Konstantinov and Bai Ganyo were honored on Bulgaria's currency, depicted on the 100-lev note. Victor A. Friedman is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. Christina E. Kramer is professor of Slavic languages and literatures at the University of Toronto. Grace E. Fielder is professor of Russian and Slavic studies at the University of Arizona. Catherine Rudin is professor of modern languages and linguistics at Wayne State College.