Almost Intimately by Irina Papancheva
I started writing my first novel Almost Intimately in early 2003 after five years of literary silence. Prior to that I had written poems and short stories. I felt I needed to make a step ahead in my writing but I was too scared from being mediocre and too uncertain about exploring longer genres. I only kept writing my diaries, reading and scratching ideas of literary works. Then, suddenly, I started writing the novel – in fact it was a second attempt – and I had a wonderful flow. I wrote the first part David with great easiness. However I got stuck with the second part Almost. I was unsure how to continue to build the plot. At some point, I decided to break free from the linear narrating and play with the structure by introducing two sections: A puzzle of memories and A slight social-political detour. The former contained selected moments from the brief relationship between the main character and the man she had a crush on. The latter threw light over the political and economic crisis in Bulgaria and the life of the main character in the months, preceding that platonic affair. In the third part Prague I continued to construct a patchwork of the experiences and reflections of my heroine in the Czech capital. I wrote the novel in first person with the main character being the narrator. I finished it in a sort of a cliché setting – on the bank of the river Seine in Paris with a small bottle of red wine. It wasn’t difficult to find a publisher and the book went out with Kronos publishing house in 2005. Days before its publishing, I woke up from an afternoon nap in a small German town, grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and wrote a new ending which replaced the initial one. Another important change I had to make was linked to the title. The one I had chosen was A love story. However just before the book went into print, I googled it and saw that another Bulgarian writer had already used it. I was chatting on skype with a friend in London and shared with him the challenges I had faced. He knew nothing about the novel but suggested: „How about Almost Intimately?“ That’s how I got my title. The book launch had good media coverage and some very positive reviews. It has been translated into English and French.
The plot of Almost Intimately depicts the realisation and non-realisation of the love between a Czech language and literature student and an older Englishman who works in Bulgaria, happening through the journey of the heroine in Bulgaria and abroad. But the most significant journey the main characters undertakes is the one within herself.
“Enchanting with the charm of youthful discovery, the book is a light and fascinating read which might make the unseduced reader not to notice its underwater currents. It is a delicate flower whose beauty veils the stony soil from which it grew up. And we are amazed by the ability of this fledgling author to be able to achieve entertainment and depth with such ease.
But perhaps this is a sign of youth. Of the talented youth.”
Hristo Dimitrov – Hindo, More literary magazine
“‘Almost Intimately’ both describes and personifies a young girl’s steps into womanhood. The language is innocent, excited and vulnerable, with tantalising glimpses of the person she will become. The plot is set in the flush of post communist Bulgaria, and subtly evokes the parallel changes in how that society sees it itself.”
Phil Madden, poet and writer
“The story, written from a female perspective, describes the search for self-perfection, the refusal to be bound by routine and to accept that human relationships can be fruitless, with overcoming transience in a search of a real friendship – a friendship which paradoxically contains both lasting bitterness and reconciliation.”
Rumen Spasov, Azbuki literary newspaper