Delphic Congress 1993

Excerpt from a speech by Stefan Gechev given at the Delphic Congress,
published in “Anti” magazine the same year.

“After the First World War, Bulgaria was again on the losing side and, of course, the propaganda told us that it was not our policy that was to blame, but the policies of the rest and, first of all, our neighbors. In 1925, I was fourteen years old, I started writing poetry, and I was sure that our poets were the best.

A little later I found an article in a magazine about Yugoslav poetry, which mentioned some verses of contemporary Yugoslav poets such as Jovan Dučić, Tin Ujević, Ivo Andrić, Mir Krigla, Gustav Krklec and others. I was amazed. What beautiful poetry! This caused a small revolution in my teen soul. Can people that have such tender and intellectual poets be bad? I found an anthology of Yugoslav poetry and began to study the language. Then the idea formed in my mind that people are trapped by those who build material and intellectual walls to separate them. Of course, this is not something new, but for me it was at the time. The same thing happened when I came to Greece in 1936 and met the Greek poets Cavafy, Solomos, Kalvos and the younger ones like Seferis and others. I assure you that here I found nothing but sympathy for the so-called Bulgarian enemy.

I had promised myself that I would do everything possible to acquaint the Bulgarian people with the exquisite Greek poetry. The two anthologies of the new Greek poetry, which I published in Bulgaria after the war, prove that I kept my word. Later I became familiar with Romanian poetry, unfortunately through translations. I admired and still admire the poetry of Arghezi, Doină, Stănescu and others. I remember with how much pride I learned that Tristan Tzara, whom I know personally, Isidore Isou, Ionesco, were our Balkan talents. I was just as happy when Andrić, Seferis and my friend Elitis received the Nobel Prize.

I think, why not publish an anthology of Balkan poetry in the respective languages and at the same time in translation? I am sure that regardless of local traditions and various foreign influences, there is a common aura, perhaps a common spirit. I am sure that what unites us is more than what divides us. But for this to happen together, we must go through an elementary but difficult path. Let’s try to understand before judging. Let’s try to get to know each other before talking not only about others, but also about ourselves.”