I was lucky enough to score galleys of Miroslav Penkov’s East of the West, which is due in bookstores in July from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. I’ve read the stories twice already. They’re knockouts.
Penkov is a Bulgarian writer who writes in English. He studied as an undergraduate at the University of Arkansas, and discovered his talent for storytelling in an Ellen Gilchrist workshop. After graduating, he spent four more years studying at Arkansas in the MFA program, and now he teaches at the University of North Texas. I first read his story “Buying Lenin” in The Southern Review, and I’ve been a big fan ever since.
Here is the promotional copy from FSG:
“A grandson tries to buy the corpse of Lenin on eBay for his Communist grandfather. A failed wunderkind steals a golden cross from an Orthodox church. A boy meets his cousin (the love of his life) once every five years in the river that divides their village into east and west. These are Miroslav Penkov’s strange, unexpectedly moving visions of his home country, Bulgaria, and they are the stories that make up his charming, deeply felt debut collection.
“In East of the West, Penkov writes with great empathy of centuries of tumult; his characters mourn the way things were and long for things that will never be. But even as they wrestle with the weight of history, with the debt to family, with the pangs of exile, the stories inEast of the West are always light on their feet, animated by Penkov’s unmatched eye for the absurd.”
You can learn more about Miroslav Penkov at his website, and preorder his book at Amazon.com or IndieBound. I’ll write more about him here (a review, maybe an interview) when the publication date draws nearer.