Kristin Dimitrova is one of the Bulgarian writers I particularly enjoyed over the summer. In her novel Sabazius she has found an ingenious approach to the post communist condition.
By giving her characters the names and attributes of Greek/Thracian Gods and heroes, she has found a way of explaining a mystery that was to confound many of those anti-communist activists who saw “democracy” quickly turn to kleptocracy. How was it that the old Communist elite and their children still pulled all the strings?
The main character is Orpheus, an angry young man of principle, a skilled musician, in love but unable to communicate with his wife, Eurydice, a frustrated actress. Eurydice cannot understand why Orpheus doesn’t use his father’s connections to further his and her careers. Apollo is an old guard poet still living in the luxury flat provided by the party for its one time proteges.
Orpheus finds that his life and the lives of those closest to him are increasingly controlled by the charismatic gangster, Sabazius – a Thracian variant of the son of Zeus, better known as Dionysos. Sabazius is a ruthless enforcer and manipulator. His cars roam the dark streets of Sofia’s industrial zones. He owns a string of night clubs where drugs are sold openly. Enemies and business rivals are eliminated. He uses the autocratic media mogul Midas’ television station to promote chalga. He breaks up Orpheus’ band, leaving Orpheus jobless and deserted.
In the end it turns out that Sabazius is himself but a tool for the old gods and when he becomes inconvenient he will die in a hail of bullets.