Interview with Kamelia Kucher and her new novel

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Interview with Kamelia Kucher and her new novel
Interview with Kamelia Kucher and her new novel
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A girl wearing a white dress is standing next to the piano. Her shoulders are straight, I would even say that her posture is proud, but - I don't know why I think this - the girl radiates sadness. What is he doing there? Her white dress is ankle length and the material is airy and not at all suitable for the chilly weather outside. For a moment I decide she's barefoot, but in fact her shoes are skin-colored, almost invisible-and they're inappropriate for late fall. Her hair is lush and of a peculiar, amber color. It comes down below the waist and looks uncombed - it's too long and disheveled. It looks like an apparition, like a dream on a foggy morning.

From "Dream" by Camelia Kucher

Lisbon, 1978

After the loss of their mother, Joao, Alessandre and Ylva learn to live with the emptiness left behind. A void that their father Fernao cannot fill.

Alessandre, having inherited his mother's musical talent, gets a chance for a scholarship to a prestigious school. Despite his father's disapproval. That same day, Joao meets Belen, who lives in a magnificent mansion, guarding the secret of the family's we alth. Absorbed by the magical aura and voice of the girl he falls in love with, Joao sets out on the path that will mark his destiny. Despite his father's disapproval.

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In the city where you can hear the whispers of the houses and the waves of the ocean, the stories of three families intertwine against the background of the Salazar dictatorship, the Carnation Revolution and the fado through which tortured souls speak.

Lisbon 2019

João Torga, a successful entrepreneur, buys the mansion, once a symbol of Belen's attraction and his adoration for her. Returning to the beginning of his journey, Joao tries to come to terms with what he has won and what he has lost. Learning to accept the choices of Alessandre and Ylva, the confrontations with his father's unyielding nature, the presence of Belen.

The ivy-covered mansion sleeps a hundred-year sleep from which Joao spends his life trying to wake up the love of his life. And chase away the ghosts of the past.

About the author

Kamelia Kucher after years of traveling around the world, she finally returns to Bulgaria with her family. Having lived in Russia, Spain, Switzerland and France, Camelia Kucher completed her education in Geneva.

The love of books accompanies Camellia's whole life. Her debut novel "Home" was published in 2018, and "Night" the following year. The two books already have several editions and are among the nominations for the most prestigious literary awards.

Dream is a novel about the directions in life that invariably bend to take us back somewhere

Interview with Kamelia Kucher

How do you feel a few days before "Sleep" reaches readers?

I'm excited. It's a mix of emotions, there's everything, but the mix is still happy. The preparations are going full steam ahead, we have prepared a lot of surprises this time, we also shot a trailer again - there is nothing to be excited about. Somehow it happens that I experience the appearance of the "Dream" as if I were a bystander. I enjoy everything that happens on the sidelines, like a parent sending his child on his way. I've made this comparison before, but with three children it's inevitable that you feel like the mother of everything you create.

With each subsequent novel, does the thrill diminish or, on the contrary, do you get more excited because people are already waiting for your stories?

Reduces the thrill of the unknown, of the very process of the emergence of the novel. With each subsequent novel, I am more experienced, I am aware of the publishing process, my thoughts are no longer so chaotic, and I am becoming more and more organized through the various stages until the novel appears in bookstores. But excitement is mounting about how readers will receive the new book. When you know that there are people who have already read your two novels and are waiting for the third, you feel a responsibility towards them, towards their expectations, you don't want to disappoint them. At the same time, I myself have expectations for myself, I already have something to compare my third novel with - to the previous two - and with each subsequent one I want to improve myself, my writing. Good thing I manage to isolate this from my writing process for now, because it would get in the way.

Tell us a little more about the novel – what can Camellia Kucher fans expect from her new book?

The action in "Dream" takes place in Portugal, mostly in Lisbon. My sentiment towards this country is strongly felt in the novel - I would like to live my old days there. The atmosphere of past grandeur is something that has always greatly moved me - I have always been impressed by dilapidated beautiful buildings, I have the feeling that they speak, tell forgotten stories. When I am in such a building, I try to listen, to hear what the windows, the walls, the doors, the footsteps that once crossed the majestic corridors tell. In "Dream" this is felt - the buildings, the vegetation - they seem to be spiritualized.

You could say that "Dream" is a family saga - the stories of three families intertwine against the background of the path of the main character - Joao, who we follow again from adolescence to adulthood, and that of Belen, the woman who He loves. "Dream" is a novel with many threads, some hinted at, others traced more thoroughly. This is a novel about complicated family relationships, about the weight of the past, about the consequences of the choices we make and the mark they leave on our lives and the lives of others, about proving ourselves, about the walls we build in front of ourselves, and then a whole life we try to jump, for the directions in life which, however, invariably bend to bring us back somewhere.

All this unfolds against the background of magnificent Lisbon and fado, in the atmosphere of nostalgia for past greatness and in the fatalism inherent in Portugal.

How is "Dream" similar and different from your other books?

It's similar in that I'm retracing the life path of the main character, who is again a man."Son" is again not being developed in Bulgaria, but in a country for which I have sentiments. Perhaps it is also similar in that in "Dream" there is a character with a particularly difficult, even tragic, character (here the similarity is with "Home"). Another similarity is the presence of art in the "Dream" - here it is through the fado, the piano and the books. It seems to me that there will always be such a presence in my novels, simply because I cannot describe a world in which art is not present.

"Dream" differs mainly in that here the story is not centered around the main character - there are several chapters where the narrative flows through the eyes of other characters, it is larger in terms of perspectives and destinies. Of course, the themes are different from those in "Home" and "Night". And perhaps to some extent the language is different – richer, more figurative. As it turned out, the atmosphere of Lisbon demanded it. Now I can think of another difference - "Sleep" has a gothic atmosphere in places, something that "Home" and "Night" do not have. In The Dream there are frequent references to three poets who have greatly influenced me and whose entire work I love – Octavio Paz, Vicente Alessandre and Fernando Pessoa – a dare I did not allow myself with the first two novels.

Sleep is more voluminous than Home and Night. What is this due to?

Actually it just happened by itself, it wasn't on purpose. When I realized the volume of the completed manuscript, I was surprised myself. It is mostly due to inspiration. But also the story in "Dream" is richer, interweaves three families, sometimes returns to the past, includes other characters in the story. And the language itself is such that it implies a larger volume.

What can we expect from Camelia Kucher after "Sleep"?

It turned out that my three novels, without being a trilogy, share a common spirit, similar atmospheres. Something connects them. And at the moment I seem to be at a crossroads - to continue in the same way or to write something different. And what would be different would be to write a novel that takes place in Bulgaria. More and more often people ask me when a Bulgarian novel will appear - and I started to think about it. I have an idea for a few stories, now I'm waiting for them to mature and see which one will prevail. I hope there are more books waiting for me, more stories to tell, mirrors to hold up - to the past, the present, the world, or within ourselves - it depends on the inspiration.

Snippet

Evenings at home are quiet. It's been a year and a half since Mom died, and it seems like an eternity-a painful and sticky eternity. Maybe this is what the entrance to hell looks like: an unwanted, debilitating and lonely eternity.

We are not in the vestibule of hell, we are at home, at the table, the four of us. We are silent. Ilva speaks most often, but today she is also speechless. Bored, he digs into the plate with his fork, he probably remembers his mother's feasts - simple, but tasty, prepared masterfully and with love. And maybe he doesn't think about anything, because some people have this ability - to let their thoughts flow like a stream after a heavy rain, without taking shape, without pain. Hair is short recently. We cut her after eighteen months of Dad trying unsuccessfully to learn to braid her unruly locks. More unruly, I think, were his hands-fingers that shook nervously because they couldn't get the damn braids together. They never turned out like the ones Mom used to braid, and that fact annoyed him, reminded him of his inability to make up at least a little of her lack, at least manage his daughter's hair, not be seen.

We cut her hair at home one Saturday. With the kitchen shears Mom used to cut chickens in half. Her long locks fell to the floor, curled like eels. It was an unpleasant sight, although Ylva did not look sad, but rather relieved. She was also probably tired of putting up with Dad's failed attempts every morning. Probably the clumsy braids also reminded her with a dark insistence of the absence of mom and her delicate fingers that could do everything. Magical hands emitting a light that in the morning lit up the kitchen more brightly than the sun's rays. The aura brought to life the frescoes on the walls-someone had once painted them in the likeness of Delft porcelain, blue and white arabesques that criss-crossed the walls of the entire dwelling, indeed all the dwellings in the building. The white paint on the upper half of the walls is peeling, exposing the gray it was meant to hide, but the frescoes on the lower half remain intact and bright. Looking freshly painted, they contrast with the gray stains above them and the languor of the wooden floor, warped by the pressure of time. Our meager furniture, rickety wardrobes and groaning bi-fold doors with a rough, rough surface where the varnish has been removed - it all looks ridiculous surrounded by those so cheerful blue and white flowers. And perhaps the frescoes look ridiculous in this withered home, blind to their joy. Hiding their splendor from the outside world.

There are four of us at the table, we are silent. I take in the flowers with my eyes and wonder what they looked like when the home was new, inhabited by people with a sense of beauty. The rooms were probably bright then, lit by the sun, which now refuses to peek in here, as if repelled by neglect.

– It's very tasty, dad – says Ilva. It's a lie. She hasn't brought her fork to her lips yet.

– I'm glad.

Father rejoices with a petrified face. The frescoes behind him are desperate to come to life, but Mom's magical aura is gone. It's as if we too are frozen drawings on a wall. Didn't mom's presence revive us too?

– Joao?

I look up from my plate.

– How was today?

– Which?

– At school.

– Ok.

How was school today? Okay. That's what we say to each other every night. Is the dinner delicious? Yes. Do you need help with your lessons? No.

– When was the last time you did my hair, Ylva?

– The other day.

– Do you want me to help you? Can you handle yourself?

– No, Dad. - Ilva always lowers her eyes here. - I can do it myself.

– Is the piano tuned, Ale?

– More or less.

– I'll call someone to fix it.

– Don't, Dad, and that's how it goes.

– Are you sure?

– I'm sure.

He is sure because he knows that money is not enough. A few keys sound fake, but Ale manages anyway - his talent is to drown out the wrong tones.

All three of us know that the money isn't enough because every night dad closes the shop early and rushes home in time to make dinner and then have the same conversation with each of us. Like a rehearsal for a play - rehearsed calmness, rehearsed confidence that everything is under control.

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