The Same Night Awaits Us All

BOOK REVIEW by Willard Manus

The little country of Bulgaria serves as a microcosm for the human race in Hristo Karastoyanov’s new novel, THE SAME NIGHT AWAITS US ALL (brilliantly translated by Izidora Angel; published by Open Letter Books). Karastoyanov, who has written six previous novels, sets his story in 1925, a few years after the Russian Revolution, when Bulgaria went through an undeclared civil war that tested the humanity of those on both the left and right.

The novel, which someone described as Dostoyevsky meets Tarantino, has two heroes: Geo Milev, a poet, and Georgi Sheytanov, an anarchist. They are based on real characters, but we meet them courtesy of the author, writing from a vantage point in the 21st century. Every time we get close to Geo and Georgi, Karastoyanov intercedes and offers a comment, reminding us that what happened in 1925 Bulgaria is being repeated in many other places in the world today.

In essence, THE SAME NIGHT’s theme is man versus power. Geo the poet was a visionary, a modernist who was scornful of conventional, conformist art. Georgi the anarchist hated both capitalism and communism. Together they challenged the forces of darkness by publishing a radical magazine, making speeches, taking action (violent, in Georgi’s case), trying with all their might to lead a war-torn, numbed nation to freedom and democracy.

Instead, the ruling class came down hard on Geo and Georgi–-and their followers–-using jail, torture and violence to crush all signs of rebellion and dissent. Both rebels were murdered by the state and their bodies dumped in a mass grave.

Karastoyanov brings this cautionary tale to life in bold, sardonic fashion.