The debut of a new international star with an outstanding collection of short stories, spiked with homesickness and fizzing with the absurd.
Prepare to discover a fascinating country; a land buffeted for centuries by power-struggles and revolts, lorded over by Turks, carved up by its neighbours, and subsumed into the Soviet Union. Yet also a land of proud and resilient people, of crawfish hunters and bagpipe makers, shepherds and gypsies, in which daily life goes on. So meet the teenager who swims by night across a border river to steal a kiss from his girlfriend, the ageing man who finds a cachet of loveletters his wife has kept for sixty years, and the post-Communist girl, an avowed thief with a heart of gold.
Here are Miroslav Penkov's beguiling, surprising and moving visions of his home country, Bulgaria: stories of people who mourn the way things were and long for what will never be, who wrestle with the weight of history, the debt to the family and the pangs of exile. And here is a remarkable new writer, who combines an eye for the absurd with great empathy to give a fresh and inspiring insight into our common humanity.
WINNER OF THE BBC SHORT STORY AWARD 2012. - .
Bulgaria past and present, its magical fables, absurdist realities and political exigencies, are presented through the eyes of homesick emigr?s and those who have remained. Penkov's stories combine toughness, vulnerability and bravado...he applies humour and compassion in equal measure: this is a sparkling collection. - Guardian
Humour, poignancy, tenderness and a deep sense of European history suffuse these lovely stories by a young Bulgarian writer of whom more will surely be heard. - Sunday Telegraph
His splendid prose can be fleet, leisurely, colloquial, or formal... These stories are not the promising work of a first-time author. They are already a promise fulfilled--wise, bright, and deep with sympathy. - Alec Solomita, The New Republic
There is a kind of magic at work in East of the West, a beautiful alchemy that combines wisdom and imagery, soul and story to render, finally, the pure gold of these tales. Miroslav Penkov is an extraordinary writer. May many books follow this one. - Bret Lott, author of Jewel and A Song I Knew by Heart
Miroslav Penkov unpacks his stories with great skill, drawing the reader so deeply into the world he has created that when the magic comes - a father wrapping his son's eyelash in a handkerchief - it knocks the wind right out of you. EAST OF THE WEST captures the moments that prove we are truly living. - Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief
Miroslav Penkov has successfully trapped two elusive creatures: the absurd beauty of Eastern Europe, and the emotional paradox of self-exile from that absurdity. His sense of history, his sense of humor, and his ability to create lasting characters make this book a dark yet hilarious pleasure. - Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian
I suspect that Miroslav Penkov would be a wonderful writer in any language, but lucky for us, it happens to be English, and what funny, tender, tragic, and soulful stories he spins from his adopted tongue. EAST OF THE WEST is, simply put, one of the best collections I have read in years, ambitious and accomplished enough in scope to encompass east, west, and all stations in between. - Ben Fountain, author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara
Miroslav Penkov was born in 1982 in Bulgaria. He moved to the United States in 2001 on a scholarship to study psychology at the University of Arkansas, where he subsequently gained an MFA in creative writing.
His stories have won the 2012 BBC International Short Story Award and The Southern Review's Eudora Welty Prize and have appeared in journals and anthologies including Granta, The Best American Short Stories (edited by Salman Rushdie and Heidi Pitlor) and The PEN / O. Henry Prize Stories 2012. Published in more than a dozen countries, his collection East of the West was a finalist for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing and the Steven Turner Award for Best Work of First Fiction.
Penkov teaches creative writing at the University of North Texas, where he is the editor-in-chief of the American Literary Review.