Електронното списание “Диаскоп” е издание, специализирано в представяне на българска култура и комикси. Създателите му Георги Чепилев и Христина Мирчева предоставят исторически анализ на различните представи за реката.

The electronic magazine “Diascope” is a publication specialized in Bulgarian culture and comics. Its creators Georgi Chepilev and Hristina Mircheva provide a historical analysis of the different representations of the river.

English transcription

Interview with Georgi Chepilev and Hristina Mircheva, “Diascope“ – digital magazine about culture, comic books, artists, art

In Bulgarian comics, what kind of stories are usuирally told with the river as the setting?
What kind of stories with the river as a setting are told in the Bulgarian comic books?
The comic book art is a language. But you have to take in mind that as there are English, French, German, Bulgarian and other languages, there also are scientific, poetic, philosophical and so on types of utterance. That’s why the possibilities for the comic book art are limitless.

That’s why one scenery can be presented in a comic book even in a scientific way. I’ve seen a book dating back to the time of the Kingdom of Bulgaria, it‘s like a Geography textbook called “Introductory geographical knowledge“ that strongly resembles a comic book. From the pictures showing for example “common estuary”, “waterfall”, “plain” and so on you can get an idea of a particular terrain. That is the most ordinary utterance of the comic book art, something like post stamps or cards assorted in a collection.
One comic book travel guide with such exposition is interesting for the tourists. Following the logic of the Geography textbook I imagine pictures of Maritsa. I am going to describe some of them but they will be in an assemblage, still not assorted in a collection: “spring area”, “endless mountain wreath, opened easterly”, “valley”, “broad fertile plain”, “fields”, “flourishing mountain skirts”, “wide river, quietly flowing”, “affluxes and rivers”, “green field”, “rocky peaks”, “mountain lakes”, small waterfall, jumping from rock to rock”, “oblong Alpine meadows” and so on. The area around Plovdiv can be described as a “small archipelago amidst a green sea – the Thracian field and wide, quiet flowing waters of a river”.

After that , we can look for answers to find the details. For example, what is this archipelago? We have to find out that these are syenite rocks, the hills that surround our ancient city with trees around the riverbed of Maritsa. The comic book can’t say “trees”, it will show “thick old willows with branches hanging over the water”, the trees could be “oaks”, too.
But in the comic books you can also look for poetical utterance. Ivan Vazov reminded about one Bulgarian song about “the three sisters” – the rivers Maritsa, Arda and Tundzha that gather by Edirne and together they head towards Aegean Sea. The folklore imagination turned the three rivers into three sisters. They had a long argument about which one of them is the fastest and they arranged a competition in the morning. The early riser had to wake the others for the start of the competition, but the mischievous Tundzha, the smallest of the three sisters left without telling them. She lied and that’s why her angry sisters cursed her to wander on her way and to pierce forests and mountains. Through the way she created, they quickly caught up and got ahead of her. But from Edirne to the sea, the three rivers flow as one and it is not known why they take the name of the most sleepy one – Maritsa.

Other poets describe Arda as a fearsome crocodile or “yellow waters like the golden hair of the woman of Momchil, the brigand”. Maritsa from the Rhodope peaks is seen as muddy and angry, throwing waves over green shores. If we focus on these shores, we can see gardens full of motley vineyards and fruit trees, fields with barley, rye, corn,tobacco. By Pazardzhik and Plovdiv there were incredible paddy fields, I don’t know if it’s still this way nowadays. Rocky peaks (the tallest is Belmeken), narrow and pointed ridges, large precipices and even an abyss, terraced stone platforms somewhere with beautiful lakes preponderate near the spring area of Maritsa and Mesta. It would be good to make it clear that Maritsa is amongst three mountains – Rhodope, Rila and the Balkan Mountains.

In the comic book, the artist would also pay attention to the flowers like the rosa multiflora and other, as well as to the fauna that impressed him – sparrows, storks, philosophically standing on one leg, the bear and so on.
Monuments built by humans can also be included. The ancient tower with the inscription of Asen on stone is interesting. People in Western Europe had a transcript of that inscription and since they couldn’t read it, they considered it a formula for gold mining. A bridge with a lantern or furrowed sky and water from a metal construction on a train bridge would also look good.

In one of the interviews Georgi assures that comics in Bulgaria are divided according to the political scenario in which they were developed, do you think that the way of representing the natural environment, especially the river, has changed in these same terms? Is this a reflection of the relationship that Bulgarian society has had with the natural environment? 
Since we reached the fertile land, we have to say something about the soil. That would be a cogitation answer to the other question. I don’t understand which article do you mean when you ask about the political separation in the comic books. Perhaps about the mentioning of the Kingdom of Bulgaria and the socialist. Of course there could be suggestions about ideology and politics in a comic book because as I’ve answered on the first question, there are different languages. I am not attracted to politics but I will try answering from the point of view of the comic book cogitations.
I’ve read an story, written by Anton Strashimirov, I don’t remember the title. In it, a German professor declares that the soil in the valley of Maritsa is of secondary quality.
This is a wonderful fact around which a comic book can be made. Somebody will say, as in the story, “How is it good if it’s not first-class quality?” Of such quality was the soil along the valley of the Nile. There are 8 types of soil quality – first-class along the Nile and secondary here, along Maritsa. Egypt owes its creation to the Nile. Sumer and Babylon were born thanks to the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. Plovdiv – thanks to Maritsa. This parallel is of significant interest for the comic book. The reason for that is that Sumer is the cradle of writing and Egypt – the motherland of the parchment. The primary form of writing has appeared somewhere else, of course, but in these two countries we find the foundation of the alphabet. It is known that writing was in the beginning figurative, meaning ideas, not words, then it becomes linear from which originates the cuneiform of the Sumerians that meant syllables, the Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Phoenician letters and so on. While in Sumer they were using bricks and fictile plates, along the shores of the Nile they were using the resilient yellow paper, on which it was easier to write. That facilitation contributed to the Egyptian hieroglyphics getting a form , of only 24 consonants. That influenced the surrounding people – with the Semitic and Mesopotamia, the alphabet became 22 signs, each one of them meaning different consonant, the vowels that had to be pronounced were marked through interlacements. The Phoenician brought that priceless gift to the Greeks who added the vowels. From the 27 signs originates the Latin alphabet.
It is obvious how the big rivers influence the speech, maybe that’s why the first Plovdiv newspaper was called Maritsa.
That is shown in the comic book “ The creation of the world”, 2014. In it, there is a page on which we’ve depicted how the ancient were writing in cuneiform, after which there is a scene of the Nile with cane and the finding of the basket with the baby that is going to be the prophet Moses from the daughter of the pharaoh.

Finally, in an interview for the project “Stories of the river Maritza” you mention two films that were filmed with the river Maritza as the setting, could we have access to any of those films? We would like to know, if we see it necessary, if we could use audio pieces as part of our podcast?

In the comic book, dedicated to the hero of the prehistory, published in “Diascope” in 2008, the river is once again mentioned. “Sometime by Iskar” is the name of the work. The origination of the troglodytes on the boat is depicted, as well as trunk hit by a lightning. There is a frame in which a rock collapses and the stones bury a cave with its inhabitants. Many years ago, I was impressed while looking through a foreign comic book, I didn’t understand the text. There were scenes of a worried mother with a child (maybe around 8 years old), living in a cabin next to a dry river. To this day, I can’t forget the huge stones, the steep slope and the pines in the scenery. I tried searching for the reasons behind this artistic influence. Turned out that where pines are planted, the water in the river decreases. There are philosophical views that consider the water as the oldest element from which life originated. The dry river emphasizes the image of the worried mother.

Nowadays, there are a lot of comic books and movies with occult and anthroposophic messages according to which a secret of the sound exists, as well as a secret of the water, of the fire and so on. The water secret can be handled by people who largely know it. If the characterknows how to use fire, he or she could achieve great things, even miracles. The philosopher Paracelsus is depicted as a character in an anime and manga. In his works, there is a very simple manual about magnetization of water. But it doesn’t become like the church holy water because it is corrupted after a gap. This is an interesting occasion for showing a custom of Plovdiv that has been around for centuries – sanctifying the flowing waters of Maritsa on Epiphany. Not only a custom, it’s a fact that the holy water can’t be corrupted, no matter the container it is put into. This is a spiritual problem. The church teachers don’t accept the theory that only certain humans can have double vision, they insist that the graceful powers are for everybody. In regards to this Bulgarian custom, I will mention about the rivers in two comic books that date back to before the Second World War. “Gergana” in “Wonderful world” and “Enslaved” in “Picture world”.

Finally, I will show a comic book about Maritsa, it is from the same time period. http://www.diaskop-comics.com/article.aspx?id=1804) It is created by a child according to the old anthem”Shumi Maritsa”. The interesting is that it could be called an avant-garde comic book, created similarly to figurative writing. On the website of comic book association “Diascope” you can find an analysis of the work, that’s why I will show a link, and you will decide what you can use. Before I wrap up, I would like to share that for the European Capital of Culture Plovdiv 2019 we had a project with a central place, reserved for the Bulgarian writing. “Chronicle of the Bulgarian writing”, showing the life and activity of St. Kliment Ohridski is already realized. The panels are printed out for an exhibition and the artistic drawings are done by Stela Georgieva. This is a sequel of the comic book “The creation of the world”, but in Bulgarian. On one of the frames it’s shown how St. Kliment baptizes a Bulgarian boy in the waters of the Ohrid Lake and on another picture you can see how the saint is teaching the alphabet to the growing up.

In regards to the movies that I’ve mentioned in an interview about Maritsa, one of them, as I’ve said, I hadn’t seen it myself because the colorful cine-film reel that we gave for development turned out to be without any images. I don’t know if the movie is preserved or if it was a technical mistake. I’ve seen the other one once because cine-projectors for 16 mm reels could be found on just a handful of places. I don’t have a digital copy, I don’t even know where is it. I am not saying it’s destroyed or lost, but I need time to find it. It was shot in the mid 80s with an experimental purpose. Both movies didn’t have preliminary scripts and that’s why they are like avant-garde images. I remember some frames – a belle, biting off an apple with the river waves as the background, she was running by the hanging over branches of the willows. Wearing a bathing suit, she was jumping into water, there was a bicycle laying on the shore. An interesting memory that I have of the lost movie is the artist Nikolai Geshev drawing on a canvas on his tripod while on the shore with his back turned to the camera his colleague Pencho Paskalev was fishing. After that, the poet Dobromir Tonev asked us to put a piece of bread from our picnic on the tripod and capture it. But we dressed one of the supernumeraries as a homeless man to pass a piece of bread to the artist by the river. Unfortunately, I can’t recover the frames but there was no shortage of pigeons, water, sun and waves. We put a big hat on one of the heroines and we made her walk by the river tavern by doing this to discomfort the visitors while we, from far away in order to diversify the Sunday afternoon, were capturing the seduced from the tables. Other images I repeated in illustrations – fragment of a beautiful woman’s face, focused on the lips and the bridge over the river. The camera pulling away, while she looked at her watch.

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