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Prof. Magdalena Kostova – Panayotova’s newly published book

It is with great pleasure that we present to you Prof. Magdalena Kostova – Panayotova’s newly published book Близки непознати (Familiar Strangers).  This is not a systematically arranged work. It is not a textbook on Balkan literatures, nor is it a survey of the images of Otherness on the Balkans: ethnic, national, religious, gendered, social etc.

It is something that I would call a Balkan mosaic. A mosaic of texts in which the Otherness of this piece of land of an unclear and problematic identity is articulated and defined emotionally and in terms of the delineating/separating properties of the dotted line: in the same way we on the Balkans often conceptualise feuds and friendships, politics and literature, close friends and strangers.
Some of the texts in this book place at the centre of attention a particular twentieth century author and a particular work related to the theme of Otherness. Others go on to explore the image of the Bulgarian as Other in different Balkan literatures. In yet another type of text the focal point is centred on the South-East, the Balkans-Europe relations. The aim in all of the texts has been to demonstrate that the Balkans are not that which begins beyond our borders. The Balkans, that is us, however familiar that may sound; those of us who are not afraid of the ghost of balkanization walking across Europe, those of us who know that the contemporary man’s sense of identity is considerably richer, more complex and multi-layered that the tight-fitting shirt of nationalism. Across the myths and the stereotypes, across memory and oblivion, across the typical gesture of beating you chest and the traditional slandering of the rival neighbor these texts are driven by the desire to see the images of Otherness as part of the poignant experience of being someone from the Balkans, a European citizen and a descendant of Krali Marko; they are driven by the desire to perceive the Balkans not as the next “gunpowder keg” but as “a musical box”, locked in the heart of the Old Continent, in the words of Milorad Pavich, the cradle of human history, one defined not only by a traumatic past but by its identity as the bridge between the East and the West. And a bridge implies strength.  Here on the Balkans what is important is not so much whose property the song is, but whether it is sung.
Convincing ourselves that history belongs to us, we create the myths and the tales and in them – the familiar strangers – our neighbours are often those at whose expense we assert our own mythology. But now at the beginning of the twenty-first century it is obvious that the social and cultural needs of the new century require a different knowledge of the near past. This knowledge requires a kind of perception which is free of the stereotypes and cliches based on notions of division, rather than on the things that draw us together. Otherwise we risk becoming tied to a future painfully repeating the errors of the past.


+359 73 588 523
+359 73 588 523


Faculty of Philology
66, “Ivan Mikhailov” St.
2700 Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria

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