THE SUN IS BUT A MORNING STAR is the first anthology of American literature edited and published in Bulgaria. It addresses a wide range of readers having interest in American writing.
The guiding principles of the editor of this anthology have been two. First, to represent the established tradition of American writers from the early 17th century to nowadays. Second, to provide selections by writers who, though not necessarily included in other anthologies of the kind, have proved to have had significant influence on European literature and on Bulgarian literature in particular.
The range and variety of work by major authors are duly considered, so as to make the anthology self-sufficient, i.e. mostly useful for the convenience of various readers. Therefore, in all periods, a broad scope of authors is offered, together with a great many works, all of them notable achievements in American literature.
Chronologically organized for clarity's sake rather than any other, the anthology is divided into six parts that trace the major periods in the history of American literature. The first period opens with the best examples of Puritan writing on American soil that provide the great spiritual and cultural tradition of the New World. John Winthrop's "City upon a Hill", William Bradford's "Plymouth Plantation" or Cotton Mather's "Magnalia Christi Americana" have long become symbolic for what might be called the American disposition. The first achievements in women writing and black writing also date from this early period, both Anne Bradstreet and Phillis Wheatley offering a high poetical horizon yet to be reached. Outstanding 18th century autobiographical pieces take the reader into the American Age of Reason, incredibly productive as it was in both historical and intellectual terms. The second period, from 1820 to 1865, offers selections by canonical authors, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, all of them, in their own way, identified with the very idea of American literature. The third period, from 1865 to 1914, opened and closed by such considerable literary figures like Mark Twain and Jack London, represents different kinds of turn-of-the-century narrative techniques and poetical approaches. The fourth period, from 1914 to 1945, can hardly be characterized but outstanding, since the complicated times between the Wars produced such writers as William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, poets as William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, E. E. Cummings, all of them, together with many others, lending novel brilliance to American literature. The fifth period, from 1945 to 1960, represents the poetry and prose of the Beat Movement, also offering selections that range from Robert Penn Warren through Saul Bellow to Toni Morrison, Adrienne Rich or Sylvia Plath. The last, sixth period, acquaints the reader with ongoing processes in American literature nowadays, introducing him to postmodern narratives like Thomas Pynchon's or Don DeLillo's, as well as to the deep insight of contemporary women writing.
With the understanding that an anthology of American literature, edited and issued in Bulgaria, should be rooted in our country's cultural context, printed here is also a group of selections by authors like Erskine Caldwell, William Saroyan or J. D. Salinger, who, though usually nonrepresented in other anthologies, have at certain times strongly influenced Bulgarian literature. Together with celebrities like Ernest Hemingway or John Steinbeck, such writers have provided a basis for intercultural discourse, a sheer sensibility towards other literatures and cultures having always been an inherent characteristic of Bulgarian literature.
Offered here are also selections by American authors who, thanks to the devotion of Bulgarian translators of different generations, have acquired a considerable receptional biography in our country. Jack London, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, James F. Cooper, Edgar Allan Poe, William Faulkner have long become emblems in the Bulgarian mind. This is a cultural tradition this anthology considers itself to be a continuation of.
Most of the texts included here though, have never yet been translated into Bulgarian. Printed in the original as they are, they appear for the first time in a Bulgarian edition. Moreover, they are aimed at filling in certain cultural gaps: one, dating from the time of the Cold War, when it was the official policy that only socially oriented American works come out, and another that has been widening in the last decade with literary taste loosing advantage before market rules.
This anthology takes its title from an American masterpiece, H. D. Thoreau's WALDEN: "The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. THE SUN IS BUT A MORNING STAR." A beautiful final phrase that makes a beautiful sense. This is how WALDEN ends. And this is how our Anthology opens.
Professor Albena Bakratcheva, D.Litt.
New Bulgarian University, Sofia
© Albena Bakratcheva