Interview with Dimiter Kenarov--Dec. 29-30, 2014
Interview with Dimiter Kenarov, a freelance journalist, poet and translator from Bulgaria. The interview was conducted in Istanbul, Turkey in two parts on December 29 and 30, 2014. Kenarov has written on a variety of issues of relevance to contemporary Eastern Europeans, among them a fascinating profile of Georgi Markov, the Cold War dissident from Bulgaria who was famously assassinated in 1978; a piece on Poland since theshale gas bubble, on snowboarders in Sarajevo, as well a number of recent articles on Ukraine and Crimea relating to politics and the environment, and many many other topics. He has written for venues like The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, The Nation, Esquire and Outside. He is also a photographer, poet, and translator of poetry.
Interview Themes -- Part I: Dec. 29, 2014 -- 1:15 Kenarov’s background and how he came to write on Eastern Europe; 6:15 On the American high school in Bulgaria Kenarov attended during the 1990s; 10:40 Memories of 1989 in Bulgaria; 13:45 On the blowing up of the Georgi Dimitrov mausoleum; 19:45 Is a heightened sense of the surreal in politics and everyday life a useful or a demobilizing sensibility?; 24:00 The case of the Serbs and self-irony; 28:30 On the legacy of communism in Bulgaria; 35:05 How the generation that grew up after communism relates to its legacy; 36:15 Kenarov’s own family’s experience of communism; 40:55 On his parents’ approach to politics after 1989; 45:25 How Kenarov imagines his audience within and beyond the region; pieces written in English vs. Bulgarian, translated, etc.; 50:40 Using the word “totalitarian”; 54:25 Bulgaria as a unique vs. representative case; 1:02:05 To what extent is there a cautionary tale for the West in East European dissident literature?; 1:09:15 Who is critiquing the West in Eastern Europe/Bulgaria now; nostalgia for communism. Part II: Dec. 30, 2014 -- 0:00 On women’s experience of communism from Kenarov’s family history; 7:05 Kenarov’s mother’s study of cybernetics and his grandmother’s tenure as a mayor; 10:50 Controversy, conflict and danger in reporting on the region (Crimea, Belarus, etc.); 14:15 Kenarov’s favorite story and how it came into being (via the KGB and prison); 22:05 On whether or not there is such a thing as “Eastern Europe”; 24:25 How defining was the experience of “transition” for Kenarov’s generation?; 27:15 On the post-communist period as an acceleration of time; 30:40 Confronting the narrative of Eastern Europe as an absence of something/lacking something and what ideas resonated with people in the 1990s; 35:05 What Bulgarians see when they look to Turkey; 41:25 Kenarov’s Gagauz and Romanian-speaking extended family members; 45:00 The recent events in Ukraine; 47:45 Kenarov’s study of Russian literature; 55:45 Contemporary Bulgarian writers doing interesting work: 1:01:20 How Kenarov sees his own work in relation to that of academics who work on the region