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Luc Levy on European Dialogues and identity

On June 13 and 14, the French Institute brings the European debate to Sofia and Plovdiv

Luc Levy
Photo: BTA

"What is the European history we share? What are the cultural characteristics and political discourse that shape and sustain the project for a united Europe in Sofia and Paris, in Kiyv and in Warsaw; in Riga and in Budapest, in Belgrade, in Sarajevo and Chisinau and in all other European capitals?" - these are some of the questions that the French Institute in Bulgaria puts up for discussion. The "European Dialogues" are a series of round tables that bring together intellectuals, artists and writers in Sofia and Plovdiv on the topic "From the Balkans to the Black Sea: European Legacies, Identities and Trajectories".

The head of the French Institute in Sofia, Luc Levy, outlined the framework of the event in an interview with Radio Bulgaria:

“Unfortunately, in February 2022, we were all shocked by Russia's invasion and aggression towards Ukraine. Then we realized that Ukraine belongs to Europe – as history, identity, language, culture…. Beyond Ukraine, we realized that we Europeans should know each other better - Europeans from Northern and Southern Europe and of course, from Eastern and Western Europe. Then the French Institute in Paris decided to organize an initiative that it called ‘Facing the War. European Dialogues', in order to encourage meetings between intellectuals, creators, and writers from all European countries, so we can try building Europe together and write a European narrative together. For this purpose, emblematic major European cities were selected. The project started in November 2023 in Prague, then moved to Warsaw, Vilnius, Amsterdam and now - to Sofia. On Friday, June 14, it visits Plovdiv.”

The program also includes a literary sequence. In Plovdiv, there will be a meeting of writers such as Maria Kasimova-Moise, known to the French-speaking audience with "Balkan Rhapsody", translated by Marie Vrinat, Georgi Gospodinov, also translated into French by Marie Vrinat, authors from Poland, Ukraine, Serbia, as well as French writer, winner of the "Goncourt" prize Mathias Enard.

According to Luc Levy, with its rich and troubled but not so well known history in France, Southeast Europe occupies a fundamental place in the European narrative. How can the narrative of Europe and European identity be outlined after the European elections and the rise of the extreme right?

“Due to my position, of course, I should not touch on political topics, but I have values,” says the director of the French Cultural Institute. “It seems to me that our project reflects well both the values to which we are attached - freedom, solidarity, respect for differences, but also the value of uniting around what we call basic principles. I think this is in Europe's DNA, something that builds it. If we give up on that, there will be no Europe. A few days ago, on June 6, in France we celebrated the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings. I come from a family that greatly anticipated and hoped for the landing and liberation. My family participated in the resistance, but were also a target of persecution. From that moment on, little by little in the West we created a free Europe. Unfortunately, if I may say so, a part of Europe was hijacked by the Soviet regime and 1989 had to come for us to meet again.”

A few months ago, on the occasion of the anniversary of the event, which went down in history as "The Breakfast with François Mitterrand", Luc Levy shared that he knows, reads and studies Bulgarian with the books of Georgi Markov.

“Until recently, I did not know much about Georgi Markov. In France, we have heard his name along with a disgusting and very sad story, namely his murder when he was poisoned, the beginning of a long list of poisonings of dissidents. As we know, unfortunately, this sinister tradition continues in some countries, but beyond his tragic end, I realized he was a great author. In an antique bookstore in Plovdiv, I found a collection of his texts, a chronicle of life in Bulgaria during the communist regime. When I started reading it - I can read in Bulgarian, but I don't speak it - these texts seemed magnificent to me. I told myself that this writer belongs to the ranks of the great authors of the anti-totalitarian tradition, Milosz Kundera, Czeslaw Milos and many others. It is a pity that he is not known in France and not translated into French. The words he uses are extremely powerful and they still mean a lot to us today, because there are still various dangers around us. We mentioned the war, but the political landscape is also deeply worrying. Reading Georgi Markov is an important source of knowledge and experience,” Luc Levy says in conclusion.

Publication in English: Al. Markov

Photos: BTA, French Institute in Bulgaria

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