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East of the West: A Country in Stories

by Miroslav Penkov

Reflecting and illuminating the battered history of Bulgaria, this collection of short stories encapsulates the oral tradition of the author’s native country in a compelling narrative. Effortlessly portraying a tragic history, the reader really understands the fraught relationships that exist in such a diverse nation. Sometimes funny, often absurd, but always moving and overwhelmingly sad.

Extract

Our mother wept and kissed my hands and then my brother’s. She said, 'I can’t lose both my sons in this war. But I can’t let you hide and shame our blood.' She sent the twins to milk two sheep, then put a copper of milk before me and one before my brother. Whoever drank his copper first would get to stay home and run the house. The other would go to war. I drank as though I’d never drink again. I chugged. I quaffed. I inhaled that milk. When I was done, I saw my brother had barely touched lips to his.
Dear God. Why now? Have I no other worries? I lie and I remember and listen to the falling snow from this old and foolish letter. I feel the cold of the mountain and see my brother holding that copper still full of liquid snow. For heaven’s sake, Brother. Drink.

Parallels

Bread and Wine by Trefor Stockwell
The Artist of Disappearance by Anita Desai
 

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