A Review By: Amelia
In a departure of how I usually review only one short story from a collection, this week’s short story review is on a full book of short stories. Why? Circus Bulgaria was a unique short story collection. Each story usually lasted only a little longer than three pages each and I found it difficult to choose just one to write about! All that being said, here are my thoughts on the short story collection Circus Bulgaria.
A boxer-turned-hitman faces an impossible mission to kill his brother; an entirely insane man becomes part of a political rally; a master puppeteer loses her craft for something more profitable; artists are discharged from the army; and a fading beauty is courted by a suitor with suspiciously scaly hands. Circus Bulgaria draws on the monsters and myths of Balkan folklore, the brutal reality of the Communist regime and the magic of the author’s own imagination. The fifty stories included in this collection have a surreal and almost hypnotic quality. Absurd, painfully funny and deeply sad, Circus Bulgaria reaches straight into the bizarre heart of Eastern Europe.
Deyan Enev was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. He graduated from Sofia University, where he studied Bulgarian language and literature and among his various occupations are house-painter, hospital attendant, teacher, copywriter. As a journalist he has published over 2000 pieces with 12 short story collections among those. Circus Bulgaria was long-listed for the prestigious Frank O’Connor English language short story collection contest.
Each story features a set of characters, a plot, and a location that’s completely different from the last (although Eastern Europe is where most of this takes place). Some characters get no dialogue, some aren’t even named, yet what’s really quite remarkable about Circus Bulgaria is that, even though the characters have so few pages we (as the readers) can still empathize with them or villainize them.
Circus Bulgaria is an interesting book. The stories are poignant and quick paced but I did find they ended abruptly or in a way that didn’t make much sense (at least they didn’t seem to make much sense to me). Some held my attention better than others but that’s the case with most short story collections which can be very hit or miss.
My final thoughts on Circus Bulgaria are that it’s fascinating concept but maybe not a book for everyone. With so few pages to work with, each story starts with a bang and usually ends with one too but the lack of set-up information/the abrupt endings might put some people off. However, if you’re a deep reader, that dynamic works very well within this book. So check this book out if you’re looking for something you’ve probably never seen before.