* WINNER OF THE BBC INTERNATIONAL SHORT STORY AWARD 2012 *
Prepare to discover a fascinating country; a land buffeted for centuries by power-struggles and revolts, lorded over by Turks, carved up by its neighbours, and subsumed into the Soviet Union. Yet also a land of proud and resilient people, of crawfish hunters and bagpipe makers, shepherds and gypsies, in which daily life goes on. So meet the teenager who swims by night across a border river to steal a kiss from his girlfriend, the ageing man who finds a cachet of loveletters his wife has kept for sixty years, and the post-Communist girl, an avowed thief with a heart of gold.
Here are Miroslav Penkov's beguiling, surprising and moving visions of his home country, Bulgaria: stories of people who mourn the way things were and long for what will never be, who wrestle with the weight of history, the debt to the family and the pangs of exile. And here is a remarkable new writer, who combines an eye for the absurd with great empathy to give a fresh and inspiring insight into our common humanity.
Miroslav Penkov was born in 1982 in Bulgaria. He moved to the United States in 2001 on a scholarship to study psychology at the University of Arkansas, where he subsequently gained an MFA in creative writing. His stories have won the 2012 BBC International Short Story Award and The Southern Review's Eudora Welty Prize and have appeared in journals and anthologies including Granta, The Best American Short Stories (edited by Salman Rushdie and Heidi Pitlor) and The PEN / O. Henry Prize Stories 2012. Published in more than a dozen countries, his collection East of the West was a finalist for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing and the Steven Turner Award for Best Work of First Fiction. Penkov teaches creative writing at the University of North Texas, where he is the editor-in-chief of the American Literary Review.