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Premiere of Kevin Ireland's book "Backwards to Forwards: A Memoir" on May 31 at the Mission Gallery


The book ,,Backwards to Forwards: A Memoir" by the New Zealand poet Kevin Ireland (1933-2023) is published for the first time in Bulgarian. It is a publication of the ,,Europe and the World" Foundation. In his memoirs, Kevin Ireland, who has translated the poems of Hristo Botev, Elisaveta Bagryana and other great Bulgarian poets, describes mainly his stay in Bulgaria during the period 1959-1961, as well as his shorter visit in the summer of 1969. The New Zealand literary writer tells with many interesting details and sense of humor about the lifestyle of the Bulgarians, as well as about his friendship with prominent Bulgarian intellectuals such as Tsvetan Stoyanov, Georgi Markov, Vasil Popov, Peter Uvaliev, Rangel Valchanov and others. One of the most curious episodes in ,,Backwards to Forwards: A Memoir" is his acquaintance with the beautiful film student Dona Marinova, with whom he falls in love at first sight and immediately proposes marriage to her.

In his memoirs, Kevin Ireland gives unique evidence of events to which he became an eyewitness – the scandal with the Scottish poet Hugh McDermid, to whom the then Bulgarian authorities intended to assign the translation of Botev's poems, the horrific meeting of the communist leader Todor Zhivkov with Bulgarian writers, as well as the British investigation into the murder of Georgi Markov. He also talks about his work as a language editor-stylist at the Committee for Friendship and Cultural Relations with Abroad, where he has been helped by the English Margarita (Margot) Alexieva – daughter of the longtime Bulgarian Ambassador in London Pancho Hadjimishev.

Kevin Ireland also describes his life with Donna after authorities allowed him to take his wife to the UK. Their home in London, where they were neighbors with Georgi Markov, was wide open to both seconded Bulgarian artists and representatives of our emigration such as Pashanko Dimitrov, Todor Lyrkov and others. The New Zealand poet was very keen on his friendship with the author of "Part-time Reports on Bulgaria" and even translated into English his play "Archangel Michael", which received an award at the Edinburgh International Theatre Festival in 1974.

In addition to the picturesque descriptions of the Bulgarian spirit, nature and even cuisine, Kevin Ireland has included in his memoirs several of his poems written in Bulgaria. He emphasizes that his stay in Bulgaria has given impetus to his development as a poet. The New Zealand literary writer published his first (out of 27) volumes of poetry only in 1963, while working as a proofreader in the Times. “. Over time, he established himself as one of the most beloved poets in his homeland. For his services to literature, Kevin Ireland was awarded the Order of the British Empire and the Order of the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

In the presentation of the Bulgarian edition of "Backwards to Forwards: A Memoir", which will take place in the "Mission" Gallery at the State Cultural Institute under the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria on May 31, 2024 at 5:30 p.m., will participate Gergina Dvoretzka – President of the ,,Europe and the World“ Foundation and editor of the book and Vladimir Dvoretzky – translator of the memoirs. The premiere is expected to be attended by Kevin Ireland's widow – prof. Janet Wilson, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Postcolonial Writing. "Backwards to Forwards: A Memoir" will also be presented within the cultural program of the Spring Book Fair in Sofia. In addition, on June 2, a literary tour on the topic "Sofia of the 1960s through the eyes of the New Zealand poet Kevin Ireland" will be held.     

Keywords Kevin Ireland