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***Translation sample available***
Three generations of Bulgarian women live in Sofia from 1944 until the fall of Communism. Mausoleum, by Bulgarian-born Rouja Lazarova, uses the moving stories of these women to portray the ugly impact of a totalitarian government on the lives of its citizens.
Milena tells of the joys and tragedies of her life and of those of her mother, Rada, and her grandmother Gaby, as each tries to negotiate the laws and absurdities of the Communist Party. For each woman, the blows of the regime are almost unbearable. Gaby experiences the area’s too-common deaths and disappearances personally: Her jazz musician husband is arrested and then shot for his “dangerous” line of work—entertaining capitalist elites. When she again finds love, her new love is arrested for the crime of “general nonconformism.” Rada’s existence is poisoned by the Faustian pact she must make to inform on her colleagues in exchange for the medicines her mother needs to live. Milena’s childhood, like her mother’s and like those of most who grow up under the regime, is full of restraints and inexplicable rules. Yet when she is taken on a ritual visit to the mausoleum in which the body of Gueorgui Dimitrov, once head of the Bulgarian Communist Party and the premier of Bulgaria, she finds that “the smell of formaldehyde was so strong, it was impossible to continue to believe in the miracle of socialism.” Milena is fortunate that having inherited the woes of her mother and grandmother, she also acquired their spirit of revolt.
In Mausoleum we learn of half a century of Bulgaria’s history through the lens of the personal stories of these three courageous women. Their unflinching capacity to hope for a better world carries them through terrifying times when silence is the only recourse. Lazarova’s telling of this personal tale is a monument to all those disappeared in the mausoleum of silence that was, for a time, the Bulgarian nation.
Rouja Lazarova : Rouja Lazarova was born in Bulgaria under Communist rule. She has lived in France since 1991. She is the author of three previous novels, Sur le bout de la langue (00h00, 1998), Coeurs croisés (Flammarion, 2000), and Frein (Balland 2004).