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International Journal of Literary Culture / Internationale Zeitschrift für literarische Kultur

Ed. by Biti, Vladimir / Liska, Vivian

CiteScore 2018: 0.12

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Volume 52, Issue 1


Hristo Botev: The Ekstasis of Non-Belonging and the Route to Modernity

Dimitar Kambourov
  • Corresponding author
  • Sofia University, Department of Slavonic Studies, 1 Tzar Osvoboditel, Sofia 1000; Trinity College Dublin, Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies, Arts Building, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland Sofia UniversitySofia 1000Bulgaria
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Published Online: 2017-06-20 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/arcadia-2017-0004


Bulgarian literature of the 19th century, although widely unknown abroad, is decisive for the formation of Bulgarian national identity. In this respect, the authority of the ‘national poet’ Hristo Botev has been uncontested for 140 years. Botev has created the Bulgarian mytho-poetic narrative and imposed it as a set of political, social and ethical principles, crystalized to a corrective. Yet, Botev’s poetic agenda is contradictory. His nationalism, based on natural belonging to the people, kin and family, is persistently extended towards social criticism and a utopian longing for class equality. Thus, the prior national unity appears subverted: the representatives of the elite are stigmatized as non-belonging to the nation per se, to ‘the people,’ a collective subject, enslaved, suffering, passive, and mute. Such an irresolvable contradiction between the two struggles – for national liberation and for social emancipation – is additionally complicated by Botev’s third, most intimate longing – for personal unbinding that would take the radical form of self-emerging beyond any kinship and class affiliation. Thus, the mytho-poetic figure of an apocalyptic Motherland had to be re-articulated as the eternal ‘There’ of a coveted death. Finally, Botev’s self-victimization, orchestrated as a rebel raid, is his response to the fallen heroes and their failed sacrifice. Bulgaria’s most powerful national poet gave birth to a national myth of the genius who voluntarily gave up poetry and joined the masses by embracing their role of a victim.

Keywords: Bulgarian literature; Bulgarian National Revival; Liberation; Romanticism; national mythology

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About the article

Published Online: 2017-06-20

Published in Print: 2017-05-24

Citation Information: arcadia, Volume 52, Issue 1, Pages 51–73, ISSN (Online) 1613-0642, ISSN (Print) 0003-7982, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/arcadia-2017-0004.

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