For early ecclesiastical writings, see Church Slavonic
. Modern Bulgarian literature stems from the work of Father Paisi, who in 1762 began his history of the Slav Bulgarians. The period of struggle for independence (1840–75) saw the real emergence of a national literature in the work of the poets Sava Rakovski (1821–67) and Petko Rachev Slaveykov (1827–95), the story writer Lyuben Karavelov (1837–79), the dramatist Vasil Drumev (1841–1901), and the great national poet Khristo Botev
, who died fighting the Turks. Ivan Vazov
was the first professional man of letters, writing plays, novels, poetry, and short stories. After Bulgaria's liberation from Turkish rule (1876), its literature became less revolutionary. A group of late 19th cent. regional writers included Todor Vlaykov (1865–1943), Georgi Stamatov (1869–1942), Anton Strashimirov (1872–1937), the satirist Stoyan Mikhaylovski (1856–1927), and Aleko Konstantinov (1863–97). The poet Pencho Slaveykov (1866–1912) introduced other European literatures into Bulgaria; his Song of Blood
(1911–13) is an epic of the struggle against the Turks. Other writers of this period were the symbolist poet Peyo Yavorov (1878–1914), the poet and dramatist Petko Todorov (1879–1916), and the story writer Elin Pelin (1878–1949). Bulgaria's losses in the Balkan Wars and World War I gave rise to a poetry whose chief quality was mysticism, evident in the work of Nikolay Liliyev, Dora Gabe, Elisaveta Bagryans, and Dimcho Debelyanov. The prose writers of the early 20th cent. include the novelists of peasant life Iordan Iovkov (1884–1938) and Dobri Nemirov (1882–1945), and the psychological novelist Georgi Raichev. After 1945, the most admired writers included the poets Khristo Smyrnenski (1898–1923), Khristo Radevski, and Nikola Vaptsarov (1909–42), and the prose writers Lyudmil Stoyanov, Georgi Karaslavov, and Dimiter Dimov, author of the popular novel Tobacco.
From the 1940s through the 1980s Bulgarian literature was under Soviet influence. Although there was a relaxation of the pressure to conform to socialist realism
after Stalin's death (1953), controls were reintroduced in 1957. Nevertheless, a less doctrinaire tendency emerged in the decades before the end of Communist rule, evident in the novels of Kamen Kalcev, Emil Manov, and Ivajlo Petrov and the poetry of Pavel Matev, Lubomir Levcev, and I. Davidkov, among others.
See V. Pinto, Bulgarian Prose and Poetry (1957); C. Manning and R. Smal-Stocki, The History of Modern Bulgarian Literature (1960); C. A. Moser, A History of Bulgarian Literature (1972); J. R. Colombo and N. Roussanoff, ed., The Balkan Range: A Bulgarian Reader (1976); M. Matejic, A Biobibliographical Handbook of Bulgarian Authors (1981).
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