Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion
Artist: Blaga Dimitrova
Confronting Bodies: The Bulgarian Communist government
Dates of Action: 1970, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1982, 1988,
Description of Artwork: Blaga Dimitrova's poems, essays, and novels explored existential questions and introduced intellectual feminism to modern Bulgaria. Her more controversial works, such as Litse (Face), focused on life under oppressive communist rule.
The Incident: Blaga Dimitrova was, in her early career, highly recognized by the communist government. In the 1970s her works became more critical of the government and received criticism for not being politically correct. Four books of poetry Dimitrova wrote in the 1970s, Fireflies Fading, Rubber Plant, Questions, and Hobbyada, were all rejected by state publishing houses with no reason given. The first two volumes of her cultural history of 20th century Bulgaria were banned and the third was not published at all. In the 1980s she was prevented from publishing the poem Waking for the Poplars, the collection of satires Laming, and the science fiction novel Urania. She was also asked to revise a number of her works. For one poem she was asked to change the setting to South Africa so that the poem would not seem critical of Bulgaria, and for another one she was asked to omit the date because it happened to be July 4. Dimitrova's work Litse (Face) in 1977 demonstrates the powers of the Bulgarian censors. Face is one of Dimitrova's best works. The book contains direct criticism of Bulgarian communist rule. The climax of the novel comes when the authorities order the main character to rewrite her biography 16 times and she realizes the meaning of self-censorship. Face was rejected by the first publisher and was only published through the help of other writers. An editorial team was then assigned to censor the novel and the chapter that included the climax of the novel was entirely cut out. Many words were changed so that there would not be any ambiguity. The novel was published in 1982 but the day it was released all of the 300,000 copies of the book were loaded in vans and taken to a special repository for banned books called the "book gaol". Most of the reviews of the book were critical, saying Dimitrova was serving foreign intelligence. Some positive reviews were published and an editor was fired for publishing one of them. Reading Face came to be a political statement.
Results of Incident: Bulgarian communism collapsed in 1989 and Facewas restored to its original version and republished twice. Dimitrova became an active politician and vice president of Bulgaria from 1992-3 and continued to write about the shifting political situation in Bulgaria until her death in 2003.
Source: Censorship: A World Encyclopedia