A Chronicle From The Short Century


Critics found it difficult to define the genre of this book. The author calls it autobiography, but distances himself from the idea of a "memoir"; readers tend to see it as a novel. It retells the dramatic events that took place in Bulgaria during the last century: a war, the consequent invasion of the country by the German and the Soviet armies, replacement of the political regime, collectivization, peasant revolt, economic deadlock, then yet another regime change. It is a first-person narrative, the world seeing through the eyes of a child, then a teenager, a young man and, finally, an adult. Against the backdrop of major social collisions we see the molding of a person: grotesque moments from childhood, collision with the dominant ideological postulates during adolescence, first sexual experiences retold with great irony, political delusions and insights.
"With an exquisite sense of humor, erudition and sincerity, Konstantin Iliev returns in time the way an anthropologist might, exploring human relations not in alien countries, but in times that are now alien, retelling what his eyes have seen.
The Defeat beautifully explores the tragic guilt, which the supporters of the old and the new orders manage to heap on themselves while trying to negotiate times of change and surrounded by events far bigger than themselves." (Christine Dimitrova – poet, translator and English professor at the University of Sofia)
"The Defeat takes the form of a chronicle. It is an attempt to bear witness. But also an attempt to contemplate on the witnessed, I hope objectively, reflecting on what has happened microcosmically, which in turn reflects the macrocosmic. This relationship between the local and the general is especially important because it means that things can be observed more accurately." (Konstantin Iliev)
In 2003 "The Defeat" received the prestigious Helicon award for new Bulgarian fiction and the Elias Canetti Literary Prize in 2005.

  • The book was published jointly by Publishing House "Zhanet – 45" & Publishing House "Fakel", 2003, ISBN 954 491 136 7
  • An excerpt of 72 pages from The Defeat was printed in the literary magazine Orient Express, Oxford, Volume 7, Summer 2005


The Defeat is a deep and wise book – a balance-sheet not so much in a personal sense, but rather in the sense of the communal fate, a balance-sheet which begins with hope and ends with failure. In times when the majority of memoir books (and there is a great abundance of such) are full of insolent lies or well groomed half-truths, cynical falsifications or slightly more refined beating around the bush, ridiculous repentance or comical rewrites of biographies, Konstantil Iliev's The Defeat  stands valiantly face to face with the cruel historical truths and accepts them with no make-up.

Svetlozar Igov, ‘The Victory Of "The Defeat"', The Maritsa newspaper, issue 337,
December 10, 2005

Back to top