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Theodora Dimova Wins France’s Fragonard Award for The Defeated

Bulgarian novelist, playwright and essayist Theodora Dimova has just won the French Fragonard Award for foreign literature for her novel The Defeated. The novel was published in France in early 2022 by the Syrtes publishers. It was translated from Bulgarian by Marie Vrinat. “The Defeated is a portrait of the Bulgarian intellectual elite crushed by terror. But it is also a portrait of a society in which tragedy is long kept silent to the point of becoming a painful secret. Without any pathos, Theodora Dimova achieves pure emotion and true empathy. Her subtle and direct style, as well as the sobriety of her writing, make this an evocation full of humanity,” the Syrtes publishers write of the novel. “When I started writing The Defeated back in 2016 I wrote in the course of almost four years,” Dimova said in a BTA interview. “I thought that this was a book about memory, about the first months of terror after the installation of the totalitarian regime in Bulgaria. I had never suspected that the book could acquire such a chilling, sad and frightening topical relevance. I have never imagined that the scenes I describe after 1944 could be literally repeated, on the same scale, 77 years later, 300 km away from us. Such a case of history repeating itself, historical destiny and literature repeating themselves, is sometimes so mystical and so frightening. It is as if The Defeated turned out to be a novel not about memory but a premonition about what lies ahead. But this is the mystical side of being involved in fiction.”
BTA will publish the full interview with Dimova on Friday.
The Fragonard Award goes with a prize of 5,000 euro for the author and 2,000 euro for the translator. It was awarded by a jury including writer and translator Jakuta Alikavazovic, Elise Boghossian, founder of the NGO Elise Care, bookseller Danielle Cillien Sabatier, Goncourt-winning author Mathias Enard, actress Anna Mouglalis and Agn├Ęs Costa of Perfumerie Fragonard.