Monthly Archives: October 2013

Under the Yoke

Since it’s the only Bulgarian novel I have ever read, I’m not exactly in a position to say that Under the Yoke by Ivan Vazov (published 1889) is the greatest Bulgarian novel.  But, if there’s a better Bulgarian novel, I’d like to read it!  Under the Yoke is one of the most powerful and enthralling books I’ve read in recent years.  It is beautifully written, and the translation was excellent, with only a handful of words that may have been imperfectly translated.  Vazov creates a richly real setting and scenario, with wit and sensitivity.  In style, he approaches George Eliot.  The epic subject and story are more akin to For Whom the Bell Tolls.  It is equally powerful as Hemingway’s classic.

After reading Turgenev’s On the Eve recently, which featured a Bulgarian patriot as a leading character, I became interested in that part of Bulgarian history and literature.  The L.A. Public Library fortunately had Under the Yoke for loan, so I borrowed it.  It has taken a day or two to shake the effects of the dramatic ending.

Now, I need something lighter, so, in one of the more extreme reverse leaps that one can attempt on the literary spectrum, I have turned to Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love.  The Yoke is slowly starting to lift.


I recently finished Flush, Virginia Woolf’s biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel.  It was actually a very fine book, beautifully written by one of our language’s finest artists.  Dog lovers would especially appreciate it, but any reader would enjoy the pathos, and the insights into the sensibilities of Flush, the cocker spaniel, and the life and character of Barrett Browning.  I give it, without reservation, two paws up.