Ivan Radoev

‘In one of his late poems, written shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall and entitled ‘A ballad written over there by a madman’, Ivan Radoev writes:

And now, let’s fill in the form.
Born – why?
Education – pointless.
Profession – enemy.

The ‘madman’ of the poem is the voice of the nation’s alter-ego, finally free but immeasurably damaged by decades of totalitarian abuse. It was Radoev’s speciality to speak about unspeakable things in ways which, albeit censored by eagle-eyed editors on the lookout for ‘moral decadence’, managed to see the light of print throughout his life. His poems, often called ballads and tales, are richly ironic, elliptical allegories of the absurdity and sorrow of life, both on a metaphysical and a political level. Born in small-town Bulgaria in 1927 and destined to live his most active creative life under communism, Radoev is one of Bulgaria’s most original and distinguished lyrical poets and playwrights. His exceptional sensibility and integrity as an artist who never took the easy Faustian path of pandering to power is matched by the extraordinary philosophical, aesthetic, moral and formal scope of his poetry, on a par with his far better-known Slavic contemporaries Zbigniew Herbert and Wislawa Zsymborska.

– from Kapka Kassabova’s introduction in MPT Series 3/4 Between the Languages