Writer Theodora Dimova:
Every single human being is important to God
We have been gifted with an immense capacity for compassion, faith and hope
9 September, 2017
Close-up: Theodora Dimova was born on 19 September 1960 in Sofia. She graduated in English Language Studies from Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” and later attended the Royal Court Theatre in London. She has won numerous literary awards, including the 2006 Eastern European Literature Award, bestowed in Vienna for her novel The Mothers. The novel has already been translated into eight languages. Theodora Dimova is daughter of the famous Bulgarian writer Dimitar Dimov.
- Ms Dimova, what inspires you these days, where is the artistic muse taking you?
- I do not like to discuss my projects in advance. I am reading a lot and gathering information, trying to process it. I am doing my regular Tuesday columns for Kultura.bg. I am constantly observing, listening intently and paying close attention, which often brings me sadness. But I find sources of joy pretty often too.
- Instances of aggression among children, some with fatal outcome, have grown increasingly frequent. What do you think is the underlying cause?
- Aggression among children is a global issue. It stems from parents-children relationships, which have become problematic worldwide. While writing The Mothers, I discovered that the true cause for aggression exhibited by children is actually rooted in parents, family problems, kids being denied unconditional love, the loneliness in which they are raised, the absence of meaningful communication, warmth, gentleness and holidays.
- Is this some kind of a divine warning sign that we should all take note of?
- You know, I feel myself sinking into somewhat of a panic whenever we start, as if in the grips of mass psychosis, analysing and judging some action, or another, of a particular person. I get the feeling we turn into a dog pack, set on weakening its victim, enjoying its agony. Sometimes, it seems to me that we derive perverse satisfaction from dissecting such tragedies. It is the depraved pleasure of the knowledge that this tragedy has not befallen us, but someone else, that we have been spared a disaster, if you will. The reality is that none of us are guaranteed anything. Tragedy and evil lurk around every corner and can hit any single one of us. Solidarity is completely absent from our society and it is a painful void.
- How can this lack of solidarity be overcome?
- I do not know if it can be overcome. I am a person of faith, I have witnessed the power of Christianity to transform, turn evil into good, sickness into health, selfishness into compassion, water into wine, grief into joy. But the most important aspect of faith is a person’s freedom to choose it, the willing submission to its rules. Actually, submission is not the right word, because there is nothing restricting about this act, which brings joy and fulfilment. This is my way of fighting off everything negative but I also realise it is an unpopular one, to some people even alien.
- What are the main modern-day topics that require a writer’s voice?
- I feel like Bulgarian literature owes a debt to the past, and I am referring to the years in the aftermath of 9 September 1944, the years of the “red terror”, when somewhere between 28,000 and 30,000 people were killed without being tried and sentenced. They were simply loaded onto lorries, behind the shield of darkness, and taken to desolate places to be shot, their bodies buried in mass graves. There are enough books written by historians, there are plenty of studies. But literature has been shying away from this open, seeping wound in the Bulgarian people’s collective consciousness.
- What should be the state’s role in the area of culture?
- The state should undoubtedly take care of culture, protect it, provide the funds that would ensure that art stays pure and does not become superficial entertainment. Unfortunately, we wasted many years in that respect and in the meantime the public’s taste changed, we created a tittering audience that expects entertainment, action and chuckles from theatre and cinema projects. The consequences of this criminal negligence are evident all around us in the lack of basic manners.
- Are many of our troubles not dictated by the circumstance that our official religion is Orthodox Christianity and yet there is still so much superstition in people’s minds?
- Oh, yes, superstition has much more sway than faith. Recently, I saw, and on one of the national television network’s channels, mind you, a diviner - or was she a fortune-teller, numerologist, astrologist, a horoscope person, or whatever she was - who, with all the authority in the world, instructed people to attract heavenly energy by tracing the rim of a crystal glass with one finger.
- To what extent has the previous political regime in this country shaped the picture you are describing?
- Oh, communism has deep roots in our mentality, it has a lot to do with the hatred, bitterness and lack of empathy for other people, lack of spiritual enlightenment that we see.
- Why is there so much talk of positive thinking, being the master of your own life, and being able to achieve anything?
- Because people have ailments and sins, they seek a cure but there is only one Healer and the road to Him is difficult. Positive thinking sells unrealistic expectations - forget all your troubles, visualise your dreams in blue and they will materialise the next day, that sort of thing.
- So where and in what can we find happiness?
- This is a perfect example of the wrong kind of question because we have not been brought to this earth to be happy, but rather to fulfil the enormous potential invested in us by God. In the process, we will naturally find satisfaction and joy but they will be understated, quiet moments, nothing like the wild happiness advertised on billboards and from the TV screens.
- What do you find most fascinating about turning to faith?
- The mystery of why some people turn to faith and others do not is something that has been driving me mad. After all, every single human being is infinitely important to God. I have no answer, no explanation. Even the seemingly tiniest thing about faith is absolutely fascinating to me, because it contains a world of meaning.
- How did you find your faith?
- Discovering God is the most sacred part of a person's life.
- Has the term “religion” gotten a disturbing connotation?
- The Christian faith is not a religion; it is a testament to the life of Jesus Christ.
- Have you ever experienced a miracle that could have only been attributed to God’s existence?
- Yes, more than once. I try to write about this in my novels and in my short novel The First Birthday.
- Our mind is a battle field. How are we supposed to handle life?
- We have been gifted with an immense capacity for compassion, faith and hope.