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Bai Ganyo

Incredible Tales of a Modern Bulgarian

Aleko Konstantinov

Publication Year: 2010

A comic classic of world literature, Aleko Konstantinov’s 1895 novel Bai Ganyo follows the misadventures of rose-oil salesman Ganyo Balkanski (“Bai” is a Bulgarian title of intimate respect) as he travels in Europe. Unkempt but endearing, Bai Ganyo blusters his way through refined society in Vienna, Dresden, and St. Petersburg with an eye peeled for pickpockets and a free lunch. Konstantinov’s satire turns darker when Bai Ganyo returns home—bullying, bribing, and rigging elections in Bulgaria, a new country that had recently emerged piecemeal from the Ottoman Empire with the help of Czarist Russia.
    Bai Ganyo has been translated into most European languages, but now Victor Friedman and his fellow translators have finally brought this Balkan masterpiece to English-speaking readers, accompanied by a helpful introduction, glossary, and notes.
Winner, Bulgarian Studies Association Book Prize
Finalist, ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year in the Fiction-Multicultural category

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

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pp. vii-x

I first became acquainted with Bai Ganyo in 1970, when I began studying Bulgarian at the University of Chicago with Howard I. Aronson, and for most of us who study Bulgarian in North American universities, Bai Ganyo is a high point of our first year of study and the gateway into a deeper understanding of the Balkans. A number of years ago Christina Kramer, of...

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A Note on Transliteration

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p. xi-xi

Owing to the fact that we are attempting to appeal to a general audience,we have used an English-based system of transliterating Cyrillic. We use ûto represent Bulgarian “schwa” (approximately the u of English “but”). The letter y represents the consonantal sound of the y in “yellow,” never the vowel sound in “by.” In word-final position, however, we have used i rather than y...

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pp. 3-12

Bai Ganyo was born in Chicago in 1893, when a young Bulgarian journalist named Aleko Konstantinov (b. 1863) encountered some of his fellow countrymen at the Bulgarian pavilion of the Columbian Exposition. One result of Aleko’s journey and those encounters was Ganyo Balkanski, the title character of a series of feuilletons first published between 1894 and 1895.1...

Part One

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Bai Ganyo Starts Out for Europe

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pp. 15

They helped Bai Ganyo1 slough off his heavy, felt Turkish cloak, he donned a nice Belgian frock coat, and everyone said that Bai Ganyo had become a real European.2 ...

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1. Bai Ganyo Sets Off

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pp. 16-20

Our train pulled into the huge vault of the station on the Pest side of Budapest. Bai Ganyo and I went into the station restaurant. Since I knew we had a whole hour to kill, I made myself comfortable at a table and ordered some snacks and beer. The crowd swarmed around me, and it was a good-looking crowd at that. You know, I’m not crazy about Hungarians, but I’ve...

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2.Bai Ganyo at the Opera

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pp. 21-23

I persuaded Bai Ganyo to go with me to the opera house to get tickets for the evening. They were presenting the ballet Puppenfee and something else that I can’t recall. We passed by the Greek coffeehouse, turned at the Bulgarian hangout, the café Mendel, and then headed off toward St. Stephen’s Cathedral. In St. Stephen’s Square I invited Bai Ganyo to stop in at a pastry...

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3. Bai Ganyo at the Baths

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pp. 24-28

Let me tell you about my meeting with Bai Ganyo,” put in Stoycho. “Go ahead!” we all exclaimed, because we knew that Stoycho was good at telling funny stories. ...

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4. Bai Ganyo in Dresden

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pp. 29-33

I, too, had an encounter with Bai Ganyo,” piped up Kolyo, “in Dresden. Do you want me to tell you about it?” “Do you need to ask? Tell it!” cried out the entire group. ...

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5. Bai Ganyo at the Prague Exhibition

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pp. 34-47

“Hey, wait a minute, let me tell you about how we went with Bai Ganyo to the Prague Exhibition,” said Tsvyatko with a grin.12 “Bravo, Tsvyatko,” we all exclaimed. “Just what we’ve been waiting for!” And Tsvyatko began. ...

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6. Bai Ganyo at Jirechek’s

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pp. 48-54

"What Tsvyatko just told you happened later,” said our shy Ilcho, “but I know that Bai Ganyo was in Prague on a previous occasion. He was there for a long time and sold quite a bit of rose oil. Would you like me to tell you about it?” “If it’s about Bai Ganyo, don’t ask; tell!” we all replied. ...

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7. Bai Ganyo Goes Visiting

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pp. 55-71

When Bai Ganyo was finally convinced that there was no chance of installing himself in Jirechek’s apartment, he picked up his disagi and, refusing to listen to the urging of his host to leave them until he found a place, set out,escorted by the servant, for Národny Kavárna - the café where Bulgarian students congregated. It was already seven o’clock when he entered the café...

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8. Bai Ganyo in Switzerland

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pp. 72-76

”So, what about you, Dravichka; why are so quiet? Don’t you know anything about Bai Ganyo?” one of our company asked our merry friend Dravichka. “Sure I do, pal; I know lots of things, but how can I tell them?” answered Dravichka with false modesty. “What do you mean, ‘how can I tell them’? If only I had your way with words!” “Well, all right, listen.” ...

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9. Bai Ganyo in Russia

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pp. 77-86

“Dravichka tells a story so well, gentlemen, that it will be difficult to satisfy you with any kind of tale after his. But still, to tell the truth, I know some things about Bai Ganyo, too,” Vasil announced. “From Moscow and St. Petersburg!” “C’mon, get started. Don’t beat around the bush,” replied Dravichka. “The expression ‘beat around the bush’ doesn’t seem very poetic to me,” Mato said jokingly. “Be quiet, gentlemen. Vasil, c’mon, my friend, get started!” ...

Part Two

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10. Bai Ganyo Returns from Europe

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pp. 89-102

“Have you heard the news?” cried Marcus Aurelius, flinging the door open and bursting breathlessly into the room. “What news?” we all asked. “Bai Ganyo is back from Europe!” “Impossible!” “What do you mean, ‘impossible’? Gentlemen, I saw him. I talked with him. His first words . . . Ha-ha-ha! His first words were, ‘We’ve made . . . ‘ Ha-ha-ha! ‘We’ve made a mess of it,’ he says. Ha-ha-ha!” ...

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11. Bai Ganyo Does Elections

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pp. 103-121

This selection is dedicated to my inestimable friend Tsvetan Radoslavov.59
"Cut the chatter, I tell you; we need to elect representatives,” cried Bai Ganyo as he banged hard on the table.60 “But how can we elect representatives? Where will we dig up voters? And anyhow, you, Bai Ganyo, aren’t you supposed to be a liberal?” said Bochoolu, daring to object. ...

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12. Bai Ganyo the Journalist

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pp. 122-132

The orchestra was playing the Romanian melody “Doina.”71 Or more precisely, the one playing was our Annie on solo flute; the rest were just chiming in. We listened from the inner salon. But, you will ask, who is this “we” you’re talking about? Who? Everyone knows who: the senator, Othello,Stuvencho, and me. A tall bottle of white Chateau Sandrovo stood before...

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13. Bai Ganyo at the Palace

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pp. 133-135

“Hey, there, Bai Ganyo! Happy Easter! Were you at the palace for the breaking of the fast?” “Who, me? Are you kidding? If I didn’t go, who would?” said Bai Ganyo, twisting the left end of his mustache and casting a sly glance in my direction as if to say, “As long as there are suckers, is Bai Ganyo going to pass up a free lunch?” ...

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14. Bai Ganyo in the Delegation

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pp. 136-139

Oh, come on now!82 Couldn’t it have been done without him? I mean, wasn’t it quite sufficient for the official delegates to do the job themselves? But no, Bai Ganyo had to stick his nose in. As if those guys, the officials, weren’t in a position to show the world what it means to be a Bulgarian and what Bulgarian patriotism is all about. Weren’t there enough characters like the personage with the “imposing Russian beard” or then again the one who “resembles a Frenchman and speaks French very glibly and smoothly” or finally the “well-known Bulgarian diplomat?”83 ...

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15. Bai Ganyo in the Opposition? Don’t You Believe It!

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pp. 140-143

Mr Editor: A certain gentleman who knows I’m friends with the fellow who collects material about Bai Ganyo gave me the enclosed letter to deliver to that fellow. This letter is so original and so typical that it would not be remiss to publish it in your paper, the Banner, as an insert. How the letter fell into the hands of this gentleman is not known to me. Sofia, 30 October 1895 ...

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16. The Temperance Society

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pp. 144-148

Taki the Beer-maker was still sleeping, even though the sun’s rays had long since pierced the clouded, grimy windows of his stuffy room; the rays gradually illuminated his legs, then crept up toward his potbelly, shone on his lower lip, which was dried and cracked from an internal fire; then they moved toward his open mouth and penetrated down his throat, from which...

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17. Letter from Bai Ganyo to Konstantin Velichkov

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pp. 149-151

Bai Velichkov!102 Good for you, Bai Velichkov! That’s the way to go! Why should we deceive the younger generation? Let’s put our cards right on the table. Ideals? Nonsense! Our very own personal satisfaction, right here on this earth,that’s the ideal we should pursue. I’m glad that you’ve finally figured it out. Why should we work up a sweat for this contemptible nation? When...

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18. From the Correspondence of Bai Ganyo Balkanski

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pp. 152-158

My Dear Mr. Balkanski, Perhaps you have already forgotten me, but I shall remind you of certain events, and I believe that you will remember who I am.108 Do you recall that when you were traveling around Europe, you stopped off in Prague, and all the Bulgarian students treated you so coldly, even Jirechek? I was the only one who invited you home, and you stayed several days with me. Do you...


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pp. 159-160

E-ISBN-13: 9780299236939
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299236946

Page Count: 160
Publication Year: 2010