Who was Sava Popov? The Unlocking of an Archive
Who was Sava Popov? The Unlocking of an Archive


Who was Sava Popov? The Unlocking of an Archive

And Other Books for Children

Тhe war changed Sava Popov’s agenda. He was constantly being called up into the army. But now he was a family man with new responsibilities. The economic situation was drastically worsening. All goods were in short supply and had to be rationed. Paper for printers was issued with special permits from the ministries. In the midst of this crisis, the publishers Yo Danailov and Nikola Kotov commissioned books of short humorous stories from him, which Sava Popov compiled, edited, and corrected, but he did so seemingly without much inspiration. The contracts were written hastily and by hand, and his correspondence with the publishers was from an anonymous APO (military post office) address. We know that at that time he was in Western Thrace. These four books, on cheap paper, do not compare with Chipev’s exquisite publications.

Тhe books dedicated to Nastradin Hodzha and Sly Peter continued to be popular during the 1940s as well. Short humorous reading matter with simple lessons was preferred by the mass Bulgarian reader. Yo Danailov (Yosif Isakov), a publisher focused mainly on accessible publications for mass circulation, knew Sava Popov’s “Simple Tales” published in Hornet. He commissioned him to compile a small book of stories about the legendary eastern sage Nastradin Hodzha (khodja in English or hoca in Turkish). The book came out in the Golden Library series with a preface by the esteemed professor Aleksandar Balabanov. There he wrote: “our young man of letters Sava Popov narrates in beautiful language and with an excellent sense of measure and taste.”

Sava Popov researched and gathered stories from collections of folk tales dating back to the 19th century. He did not overlook any books and pamphlets published over the years by various storytellers and authors. But he also allowed himself authorial interventions, sometimes substituting the roles of the characters.

The illustrations were done by Vadim Lazarkevich, one of the most preferred and productive children’s illustrators in the 1940s. The time for illustrating and designing the book was probably short; it is apparent that it was done hastily. Yo Danailov later commissioned a second book in which the heroes were Sly Peter and Nastradin Hodzha, and the illustrations were drawn by a different artist, of Russian origin – Mihail Blek.

For Simple Tales, stories were collected from Sava Popov’s column in Hornet. The book’s illustrator was Stoyan Venev. The illustrations were drawn in one go in his typical rough manner. The characters come to life in expressive hyperbolic caricatures. Some of the drawings in the text are by the young Lyuben Zidarov, who in this period also worked on other publications by the editor of this series, Nikola Kotov (Mamin Kolyo). The stories are about poor people who want to outwit their fate and get rich; about lazy and inexperienced daughters-in-law and women constantly being tested by the elders in the family; about daughters who cannot be married off because they stutter; about sons who do not trust the wisdom of their fathers, but in the end, this wisdom is exactly what saves them. The style is concise and laconic, with short sentences and many new lines, with more verbs and few adjectives, with florid dialogue and a lot of onomatopoeia.