Once, discussing the topic of potential emigration, I asked a friend why he hadn’t left. He told me succinctly and clearly: „And where abroad could I be friends with Vera Mutafchieva?”
All of us, who have the intellectual privilege to be frequent guests to her home, fall into the workshop of Vera’s words. There we follow her analyses of history and of current politics; we become part of her family and academic recollections. We breathe in the words she creates.
Therefore we will definitely say the same things when we try and talk about her.
We can’t but write about her polyphonic thinking. About her boundless culture. Her formidable memory. Her profound knowledge. But above all her search for man, with which she joined together history and prose.
We will probably all be talking about her incredible efficiency and capacity for work. About the modest self-irony. And about the firm and wise banter with things old and new. But also about the infinitely inquisitive approach of Vera towards the world, which she traversed and described with the whirlwind of human passion and with the scents and colours of the earth and water.
And no-one can deny it – Vera Mutafchieva’s intellectual layerings pull down the frontiers of our native culture.
Delving into archives is not enough for her. She lives among the real and the imagined. She is convinced that „history easily accepts low human motifs: thirst for money, for power, for envy or revenge. But if history comes across an individual that has to be acknowledged, someone who was driven by a humane impulse, history loses confidence – it has quite a bad opinion of man.” And that is why she populates it with brilliant people – from ancient Greece, from Byzantium and the Ottoman Empire; she merges the Orient and the Occident, lays the Path and gives meaning to the letters. She shifts the limits of reality and fantasy. Vera’s huge talent as a historian and a writer cannot be stopped by anything – from Alcibiades to Jem Sultan, from Anna Comnena to Sophronius.
Her academic audacity in Ottoman studies has already been acclaimed. The layers of the language in her fiction have been widely examined. What she wrote about the Bulgarian history, however, inveighed or cribbed from „fellow writers”, will rake our self-knowledge from now on, and one day will become part of history textbooks...
We remember from „Chronicle of the Time of Unrest”: „The worst thing is that our people have no real notables, the blood cannot become clear in generation after generation of a life of leisure. If someone manages to do well, he is either robbed or beheaded...”
The historical parallels that Vera Mutafchieva draws with the amazing ease of the erudite, who has never fallen victim to prejudice, are among the most perceptive texts, written in the Bulgarian language. Iberia and the Balkans, the exile and hope, the betrayal and naiveté, the cynicism and nobleness of days past and present. Vera has it all. And plenty. Real and imagined. No illusions or self-delusion.
And simple as that – ends the tragic fate of Vera Mutafchieva in our modern cultural history. There is no source for such powerful writing, there is no such penetrating authority on the human – both male and female aspect in history, there is no cleverer person than her to hand out knowledge and friendship.
We remember: „But life is worth even the labour and the dangers, it is something that has everything, both magical and disgusting. If man desires one of them, he should be ready to accept the rest – i.e., to live. As simple as that.”