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FRANCE AND BULGARIAN SECULAR ENLIGHTENMENT

Author: Nikolai Genchev

 

This monograph at hand could equal in magnitude another title from our booklist — cf., "Iliya Konev. Bulgarian Revival and the National Enlightenment /in 3 vols/. Sofia, 1983-1998". Both Konev's and Genchev's works (the latter spelled in French, "La France at le Reveil national en Bulgaria") are unique in their treatment of the Bulgarian Enlightenment; insofar, they have aimed to reveal a historical process from international perspective and not like most of their earlier precursors on the same theme. We mean here works from literature critiques, such as Prof. Ivan Shishmanov, Prof. Mihail Arnaudov, Prof. Petar Dinekov and others, which at length for some 100 years have been trying to give meaningful classificatory schemes of the Revival process as purely national and specific phenomenon, born and developed here on the Balkans within the limits of the Ottoman Empire. It has become a mandatory truth that it is more important what other people say about you, rather than what you have to tell regarding yourselves.

Prof. I. Konev deals with whole array of influences coming on and reflected by the Bulgarian Revival. As a counterpart, Prof. N. Genchev proposes only one ray — viz., France, its Absolutism and the French Revolution — developing the whole topic within those strictly defined frames. This has evolved into an interesting narrative, since French history has been dominant on the continent for some 200-300 years parallel with the Ottoman expansion and demise. By and far, the subtleties of the Eastern Question are not dealt with in this book but it remains the large data-base of sources used by the author. In our estimate, the proportion of French writers dealing with themes on Oriental Turkey and Turkey-in-Europe outweighs other nationals to at least 50%. This is evident from meta-analysis of sources and explicitly from the capital work of Nikola Mikhov, "La Bulgarie et son peuple d'apres les temoignages erranges, I. Extrait des publications francaises. Lausanne, 1918" /in French language/.

Another pitfall of this book is the lack of mutual citation. Since the particular notion of French Liberalism as main-force engine to the revolutionary process in XVIII and XIX centuries was poorly recognized by bulgarian literature critiques, subsequently Nikolai Genchev's book has long time disappeared from library shelves and the title not mentioned in reference lists. Less important books from the same author have been often cited, but they don't contain even half the information included in this precursor book. Lastly, we wish to share the acknowledgements of the author to his French mentor, Prof. Gaston Serghebaert, who provided consulter help to writing the book and particularly his backbone monograph, "Sergheraert, Gaston (Christian Gérard). De Pantagruel a Candide. Presence de la Bulgarie dans les lettres francaises expliquee par l'histoire, t. II. Paris, 1963", ditto.

 

 

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