Dickens and Bulgaria: Sloppy Translations and Urban Legends

10:28ч / 10.05.2015г
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Few English writers have been translated and discussed in Bulgaria more regularly than Charles Dickens who has become a significant literary and social authority in this country. The reception of his works, however, has been marred by sloppy translations and funny misunderstandings, as well as by ideological dogmas.

As Prof. Vladimir Trendafilov states in his recently published book „Употребите на британския ментор: Рецепцията на Чарлз Дикенс в България“ (The Uses of the British Mentor: The Reception of Charles Dickens in Bulgaria), the first Bulgarian adaptation of A Christmas Carol appeared as early as 1859 when this country was still under Ottoman domination. The name of the writer, however, was omitted, and the title was changed to Glorious Resurrection or a Tale of Easter (probably to match the publication season). The Balgarski Knizhitsi journal that published this text (translated from Russian by a certain R. Filipov), also ran the short story Famine Aboard, this time under Dickens’s name. That was another blunder because, although its original was published in the Household Words magazine edited by the writer, its real author was William Moy Thomas.

Prof. Trendafilov has compiled a long and exhaustive list of all translations of the Dickens literary heritage into Bulgarian. He does not spare his criticism towards those hacks who have turned his masterpieces into mediocre tales. Nevertheless, the Sofia University professor of English literature points out that even those imperfect translations have made Dickens incredibly “big in Bulgaria”, although sometimes for the wrong reasons. The writer owes at least a part of his popularity to the urban legend (gladly refuted by Prof. Trendafilov) that he had visited the Bulgarian lands in the 1860s. This myth has stemmed from the anonymous travelogues published in the Household Words. The Bulgarian public was so enthralled with them that they were often translated and praised. As late as 2013 political activists even proposed to make Dickens an Honorary Citizen of the Black Sea port of Burgas.

Another example of the huge influence that the English writer had over the Bulgarian public is even weirder. In 1908 Videlina magazine reported that a group of spiritualists in Sofia invoked the spirit of Bulgarian national poet Christo Botev in order to complete a poem that he had left unfinished. Those enthusiasts were inspired by the example of their brethren in the USA who invoked the spirit of Dickens in order to complete The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Source: www.evropaworld.eu