Interview with Tofdor Bobov.
Author of "Of Rats and Men"
Todor Bombov’s science fiction short story Of Rats and Men was an
honorable mention at the 2016 New York Book Festival. The festival
caught up with the Bulgarian writer to catch up on the scene in his
native country and discover his inspirations.
NYBF: What sparked your writing interest?
TODOR BOMBOV: I've never thought to be a writer. I've just
ever loved the books. Still, in my early childish age, I loved the
reading, maybe because I was very curious boy. In this, my childish age,
I wrote my first verses. And when I began my studies in Varna's Higher
Institute for National Economy, I made my first literary attempts in the
poetry genre. I just felt the necessity to put on the white sheet all my
thrills and agitations in my mind. But to write the “Rats” story, it was
spontaneous and unexpected.
NYBF: As noted, your novella talks about an attack by rats. Why
that creature? Did you study them in order to paint a vivid picture of
TB: In 1990, I read an article in a magazine that said the Moscow
subway's basements were conquered by enormous fierce rats. It gave me a
shock. I was deeply impressed with this idea and it made me begin to
ponder human existence. And then I began to study the rats. Indeed, I
began to read all about rats. As it turned out, a fact slightly known,
rats are the most intelligent creatures after man - before dogs and
monkeys! Finally, I arrived at the conclusion that the human race as a
dominant species on earth is not guaranteed an infinite span, but might
be changed. In this connection, I'd like to turn to all people and
governments, to all corporations all over the world - don't make the air
foul, don't pollute the water, the ground, the mountains and the oceans!
Let the time of cleanness come - in the minds and deeds! Otherwise, the
Rats come! I'm serious. This menace is real!
NYBF: Tell us about being a writer in your country. Is there a
large community of them?
TB: Until 1990, there was a large community of writers in my
country, Bulgaria, and they were united in a trade union, or rather
something like a craft subordinated to the official totalitarian
authority. They were court lackeys that glorified the ex-regime and the
top nit in it. After 1990 until now, a quarter century later, the
writers are not a large community - they are already neither large, nor
a community! Being a writer in my country now - it is a hard occupation.
To be a writer today in Bulgaria is a vocation! But maybe this is the
eternal fate of the writer - no matter where and when.
NYBF: You mentioned that you are expanding the Rats story and
working on something full-length. Tell us about that.
TB: Yes, I have an idea to expand the Rats story to a novel and I
even created an outline for that. But now I'm so busy with the printing
of my second book, The Socialism. and at the same time the preparation
of the third my book, HOMO COSMICUS. Because of that, I have no spare
time to begin expanding the Rats story. Perhaps after 1.5 or 2 years, I
NYBF: Is science fiction going to be your main focus? Or do you
have ambitions in other genres?
TB: In 1981, when I began my studies in Varna's Higher
Institute for National Economy I doubted the socialist system in which I
lived. Until the end of my studies in 1985, I had already begun writing
the main work of my life, The Socialism, which is a philosophical,
economical and political work and which will be published in a couple of
weeks in the United States. So, writing sci-fi is not my underlying
style and main focus. But I love so much of this genre. My science
fiction is more science and less fiction. In this connection, as I
mentioned above, after the forthcoming The Socialism, I prepare my next
book - the novel HOMO COSMICUS, which is science fiction again, and will
be published next year, I hope.
NYBF: Who are some writers you admire and why do you admire them?
Any of their styles bleed into your work?
TB: My favorite author in general is Marx - Charlemagne of the
modern philosophy and social sciences! I admire him because of his
profundity of thought, analytic mind and stigmatizing satire on the
contemporary capitalistic world. Of course, here I must add Engels, the
alter Ego of Marx, because they both are, in fact, one spirit in two
In belles lettres - the French writers of the Enlightenment - Molière
and Voltaire, because of their wit, subtle irony and inimitable sense of
humor; Jack London - because of his adventurous and spirit of freedom of
America's pioneers who dared to blaze the trails in a wild, wild world;
Dostoevsky and Bulgakov - because of their philisophical fiction.
In science fiction - Ray Bradbury, Stanislaw Lem, Arthur Clarke, Isaac
Asimov- because their science fiction is a speculative fiction, in
contrast to the great mass of modern decadent fables. Their sci-fi works
wrestle with complex questions and give some true image of the future
world. All these great writers irrigated my mind and spirit. But the one
who left the deepest imprint on my writer's style is certainly Marx.