Dimitur Boyadzhiev and Marseilles

14/05/2012 by Christopher Buxton

Just one of those coincidences! I completed my sixth novel a week ago.  Part of the action is set in 1920’s Marseilles where  a Bulgarian ex-POW becomes so immersed in the exotic criminal hurdy-gurdy world of the notorious red-light district, that he does not want to return home to his small town nestling in the Balkan foothills.. Before starting the book, I recalled from Borsalino  that Marseilles was the Chicago of Europe.  I hadn’t yet realised its significance in Bulgarian history.  Not only was it a staging post for emigrants to America, but a dancer from Burgas made her name on its principal stage alongside Josephine Baker and in its main street the VMRO activist Chernozemski gunned down the king of Yugoslavia in 1934.

I am indebted to my friends and fellow writers, Doicho Ivanov and Ivan Burzakov for introducing me to the poetry of Dimitur Boyadzhiev, who worked in the Marseilles consulate towards the end of his short life.  Boyadzhiev stands alongside Yavarov and Debelyanov.  They are the three giants of 20th century Bulgarian poetry, writers in the tradition of Baudelaire and Rimbaud.

Boyadzhiev is sadly one of the many Bulgarian poets who took their own lives, while still in the bloom of creativity. I have put in a link to my rather liberal translation of his poem: Marseilles. It shows a rather different attitude to the city than my hero experiences.

And here’s an extract from another poem:

“So many folk

I saw through, understood

and today I am choked

not by wisdom but dread…”