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Hommage to the Bulgarian Poet
Lyubomir Levchev – 80 years

A toast for T.S. Eliot at a restaurant in Sofia who created a lifelong friendship between me and the unique Bulgarian poet Lyubomir Levchev. Of course, each person is unique, but there is not a poet in the world with poetic charisma as unique as Lyubomir’s. When we saw each other at that restaurant, we did not know each other. We just happened to be sitting near each other when I, for one reason or another, rose my voice quoting:

"Let us go then, you and I,

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient etherized upon a table"

-The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock! Lyubomir shouted.
-My new Swedish friend, a toast for T.S. Eliot!

After that we presented ourselves to each other. I happened to be in Sofia on a special mission: to investigate what kind of culture centers existed in this old city. That was when Stockholm was planning a new centre and wanted new ideas for this new structure.

We spent the rest of the evening with Eliot quotes. I told Lyubomir that years earlier I had happened to meet on the Greek island of Paros T.S. Eliot’s personal secretary, the Irish poet Desmond O’Grady. Then I learned that Lyubomir was not only a poet, but performed many more activities.

He published his first book of poems, whose title “The Stars Are Mine”, sounds as an echo from T.S. Eliot, in 1957. Since then he has published over 70 poetry books and several memoirs.

He worked as a regular editor and later Editor-in-Chief of the weekly of the Bulgarian Writers’Union "Literary front". As First Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Culture (1975-79), and later as President of the Bulgarian Writers’ Union (1979-1989), he was one of the chief initiators and organisers of the Sofia International Writers’ Meetings “Peace – the Hope of the Planet” at which writers from all over the world used to meet. That was a free and open forum at which everyone was invited to speak and take part in the discussions. It was not by chance that I met there Evgeniy Evtushenko, as well as Greek and Cypriot poets. Those meetings, unlike many other meetings in Eastern Europe, were a boiling pot of ideas and visions. That was to a great extent due to Lyubomir’s free and unprejudiced mind.

After the changes he edited and published the private international magazine for literature and arts "Orpheus".

Given all this impressive literary and cultural biography, it is no surprise that he has been recognized with a number of highly prestigious national and international awards and honours.

His books gained wings and they are flying all over the world. Today Lyubomir is not only a Bulgarian poet, but a poet of the world!

Let me end this speech as a sign of respect to my friend by saying one of his most beautiful poems translated by his Swedish friend:

Jag som vägrade överge Pompeji

Döden är en gåta. En terror. Men inte slutet.
Som en docka vaggas jag i jordens djupa sköte.
Jag hör de himmelskt kristallklara tonerna
Jag som vägrade överge Pompeji

Innan utgrävningarna avtäckte mig
låg jag hoprullad som ett embryo, tyst, förstenad
Allt jag gjorde var att trotsa elementen
och bita mig själv fast i mig själv

Jag såg er fly till hamnen
på väg mot de räddande fartygen
för att sätta er i säkerhet
Ni hade plundrat templen och bett era böner
och lämnat skräckens minnen efter er

Männen, djuren allting förstördes
Hur vackert var inte det övergivna Pompeji
Några få grässtrån var mitt enda sällskap
tills stadens ära smög in och tog över

Guden har förändrats. Nu var det vulkanen de undersökte.
Staden och dess korruption blev till ett museum.
Men alltjämt biter jag mig fast i mig själv.
Jag som vägrade överge Pompeji.

(translated by Peter Curman)

 Peter Curman, Fatburstrappan 18, 118 26 Stockholm, Sweden
  © Peter Curman 2012