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Posts tagged New York

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American Way of Life

This breakneck speed of trains, ships, trams and lifts; these wire-entangled streets; this smoke; this noise; this ado… and those troubled faces; those mute mouths that seem incapable of giving a smile any longer… Brrr! Cold! Rushing, scurrying - as if unconsciously, like machine cogs, all the Americans automatically shuttle to and fro and interlock; the machine spits dollars; they take the dollars and put them back into the machine and move like cogwheels again… Eh, when will there be time to live?…

On the other hand, when we compare the situation of the working population in American cities with that of London, the well being of the former and the poverty of the latter stick out a mile. All the populace is well dressed. You see them in the streets, at the harbours, in the factories, in public institutions and in the churches: you can hardly tell the difference in their social status judging from their appearance. Go on a train or a ship: a cobbler sits alongside a governor or a millionaire, a cook sits alongside a professor - all of them wearing similar clothing, with a newspaper in hand, a cigarette in their mouths, their feet up wherever possible and nobody caring that this man is a big shot and that one a worker. Aren’t they lovely, those Americans!

Aleko Konstantinov’s 1893 travelogue “To Chicago and Back”

Filed under literature bulgaria new york

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Arrival in New York

I approached the customs officer too. He asked my name. On hearing a surname ending in “off”, he muttered:

"You are Russian?"

“No, I am Bulgarian”

”?!”

"I am Bulgarian, from Bulgaria."

”??!!”

"Bulgaireean!" I spoke up stressing the syllables, because the carelessness of this American was beginning to offend me. Was he deaf or something?

"Bulgaireean!"

"Hungary," he corrected me.

"What Hungary! Bulgaria, on the Balkan Peninsula." I was both angry and felt like laughing at the same time seeing him racking his brains to remember - where for Christ’s sake was this kingdom! I realised that I may not have pronounced the name of our principality correctly in their tongue, so I took out and spread a map of Europe before him and poked my finger into the centre of Sofia.

"Oh, yes, Turkey, all right!"

"No, sir," I objected, but he wouldn’t listen and wrote me in as a Turk. In the same manner he Turkicised Filaret and the doctor. The latter was disillusioned and conceived a hatred for the Americans.

Aleko Konstantinov’s 1893 travelogue “To Chicago and Back”

Filed under literature bulgaria new york chicago