1. The poetry which we create is political in the absolutely concrete sense of an unambiguous dividing line between friend and enemy. At the moment of our formation as a group of poets, our clearly defined and irreconcilable enemies are: a) lifestyle literature in all its manifestations and b) the literature that lives parasitically off a university infrastructure as well as c) commercially orientated attempts at hybrid incest between a) and b).
1.1. We understand “Lifestyle Literature” to be a product controlled by the mechanisms of supply and demand, in which the author to a greater or lesser degree of awareness seeks to address demands created by a consumer oriented “culture of self”, in other words a desert mirage, that we can “create” our very own “I” from consumer goods and services. The authorial moment in the products created this way is debased and reduced by expectations, whose fulfilment requires a denial of the aesthetic – and often ethical – autonomy of the creative entity. In this sense lifestyle literature can be regarded as a commercial equivalent of the post-modern conception of “the death of the author”, in which this type of literature meets up and shamefully co-habits with “high class” (university) post-modernism.
1.2. Both the partners – lifestyle literature, on one hand and academic post-modernism on the other – have reason for (unexpressed) shame in front of each other, and so in front of the readers. Literature inspired by post-modernism finds itself in a more delicate position however, as it lives parasitically off a university infrastructure. In spite of the theoretical alibi of the levelling of “high” and “low”, the couple’s higher partner cannot rid itself from the left-overs of a guilty conscience, especially when it must rely on the realities of the left-wing discourses of western academy. At the end of the day – even when the rhetoric is left-wing – the more theoretically-leaning partner resorts actually to neoliberal market justifications, typical for the review of lifestyle production: “the Bulgarian writer with the greatest sales”, “the Bulgarian writer most published abroad” along with similar rank lists of commercial success. A separate question is to what extent this success is really commercial or is based, typically for Bulgarian society, on an oligarchic fusion of private interests and a privatized state (at the end of the day social) resource.
1.3. By “a literature living parasitically off a university structure” in spite of the colourful connotation of the descriptor “parasitical”, we understand above all (and not pejoratively) the sociocultural given: the economic necessity for the writer to depend on payments which although low are still relatively secure, in the form of a teacher’s salary (or a PHD grant) which does not require an eight hour working day. If you are not prepared in practice to sell your writing and yourself as a writer, university work represents a legitimate and honourable choice for the writer. The unacceptable parasitical aspect intrudes and takes over when the university infrastructure (free availability of facilities, access to the media and competition juries through academic qualifications and titles, when all is said and done the recruitment of an audience of students, whom you frequently teach and even expect to examine) is employed to distort the competitive literary arena in favour of the university teachers, emerging as poets at the same time.
1.4. Now is the moment to face up to probably the most important question, which springs up in the definition of the political as a separation between friend and enemy. The 1 million dollar question: why do we need enemies? The answer is simple, perhaps startlingly simple: The ten year peaceful transition in literature after the end of 90s turned into the creation of distinctions “friend – enemy” in a vital act for the reconstruction of the productive tensions in the literary field. The development of the political system, begun by Simeon II has its exact equivalent in the literary system: the transformation of the radical political potential of 90s’ postmodernism into a depoliticized career oriented academic corporative resource, suitable for a smooth coupling with lifestyle literature with the aim of achieving commercially optimal hybrids. Returning radical politicization to the literary field, we openly declare as our enemies the depoliticized academic-corporate postmodernism/neo-avant-garde, lifestyle literature and their commercially optimized hybrids.
1.5. Insofar as we live framed within a culture of victimization, cultivated diligently by each of the succeeding regimes, we know that the status quo of the peaceful transition in literature, which we declare as our enemy, is not going to lose the chance to declare itself as our victim. It won’t be either the first or the last time, when the really and symbolically rich and powerful adopt the mask of the victim. In fact the whole culture of the peaceful transition, constructed by the old socialist elites, is based on the blocking of every move for freedom, using the scare tactic that there will be “victims”. We know that they are lying, protecting their privileges, scared for them, they don the victim mask. We maintain, that behind the victim mask skulks the status quo of the peaceful literary transition, the group promiscuity between lifestyle and academia – our enemy.
2. The new social poetry, whose birth we declare here in the manifesto, is above all else a poetry of the rehabilitated figure of the author – rehabilitated after the lifestyle-academic total consumption of his “death”. The arrogant commercialization of the Roland Barthes concept is a de facto signing of its death warrant. The commercially optimized hybrids between lifestyle literature and “high” academic postmodernism practically killed and buried the revolutionary-anarchist potential of the “death of the author” idea. In this situation we declare the resurrection of the author as the final guarantee for ethical acts – i.e. freedom. The film revolves in front of our eyes, in which the theoretical kicking of the author into the literary field gutter was an alibi for the positioning of his wares in the orange-light sales booth of power, in the guise of media, juries, grants, translations, state awards. This author is indeed dead and stinks already. Long live the author as the last guarantee of freedom!
2.1. The rehabilitation of the figure of the author as a subject, who can be held responsible in an ethical context, is an aim in the heart of the darkness of the peaceful transition regime: there is no truth – ergo we act, “we work” on our literary and academic career, academic and literary history is written by ourselves, as we play our petty match and at the same time award the penalty kicks. If during the 90s the relativizing of the notion of truth turned into game mode, undermining the dogmatic “truths” of the old regime’s ideology, during the 2010s this academic-lifestyle relativism took on the real-political and real-economic dimensions of a corporate privatization of a social literary resource. In this situation we declare for a literature of the truth, which is a generic term for our perception of a new social poetry. The founders of the game, finished it themselves, with their academic apparatchik truth and lifestyle icons. The new social poetry like the literature of truth is our desire to return freedom to literature from academic apparatchik games and lifestyle commercial amusement/sorrow to death.
2.2. The poetry of the 90s at the peak of its achievements, linked with the names of Ani Ilkov and Zlatomir Zlatanov, never turned its back on the aesthetics of the sublime as a transmission between the literary and the political in the context of modernism’s unfinished project. Academic post-modernism, which relies on these poets as teachers, above all samples from them a discursive game and the playing with post-structuralist jargons, leaving behind their powerful aesthetic of the sublime, whose final existential investment is the political. Symptomatic is the drift, growing stronger with the progress of the peaceful transition in the 2010s, away from the aesthetic of the sublime, not taken to heart, towards the increasingly open commercial embracing of the aesthetics of beauty. With the most successful hybrid between academic postmodernism and lifestyle literature, the aesthetic of beauty turned into a commercial condition, quite indispensable, proposing already real-political prescriptions – “the protestor is beautiful” – included directly in the Ministry of the Interior PR campaign against the protests in 2013. The new social poetry categorically and forcefully counts on the aesthetics of the sublime as a means of returning to political radicalism in literature and society, demoralized by the aestheticization of the political within the bounds of the commercial hybridization of academic postmodernism and lifestyle literature.
2.3. The aesthetic of the sublime is a secular advocate for theology in a context of socio-historic (Information-technological, biotechnological etc.) drawing out a transcendence both fundamental and non-negotiable within the bounds of the western civilization differentiation of spheres of values. The freedom which we wish to return to literature is unthinkable without the unyielding insistence on the autonomy of the poetic in the face of the ideology of the market place, the state and science. But this autonomy is not sufficient for the realization of the conditions we seek for the possibility of freedom. Just like the rehabilitation of the author as an ethical subject, so also the concept of the literature of truth, both are unthinkable without transcendental foundations. We saw with our own eyes, growing old, whither the playful suspension of subject and truth leads – directly into the cashing out of the game in academia and commerce – the truth whose basic foundations are transcendental. Without an ethical subject (dependent on responsibility) and truth whose basic building blocks are transcendental, there is no social justice. Without rage for justice there is no poetry.
Translated from Bulgarian by Christopher Buxton
Списание „Нова социална поезия“, ISSN 2603-543X
Ventsislav Arnaoudov, The Fist, 2018