As we have mentioned, we will dwell on one episode of Dajkov’s critical work, which we consider an illustrative example of the performance of a hesitant reviewer and the reaction of a proud poet. Namely, signed with the initials I. D-v, Dejkov is the author of the first review in the first book of the magazine Nadezhda from 1899, published in Stara Zagora, edited by Atanas Iliev and St. Momchilov. The review referred to the collection of Wandering Poems (Impressions and Feelings in the Small and Big Old Mountain) by Ivan Vazov. The book was published by the Court Bookstore “Ivan B. Kasorov”, and printed by the Court Bookstore “Brakja Proshekovi” in 1899. By that time, Vazov had already earned the reputation of “patriarch of Bulgarian literature”, which speaks volumes about his significance and influence.
So, when the critical review was ready, Dajkov sent it to the editor Iliev. He, at the end of November or the beginning of December 1899, with the knowledge of the author of the text, forwarded it to Vazov for consideration. The request was to read the review and possibly comment. As can be seen from the answer he sent to Ivanov on December 17 of the same year, Vazov was dissatisfied with the review. The letter reads: “I am returning the review with the notes you are requesting. It is better for you to write a review, if you have the time” (Периодика и литература, т. 2, 1993: 481). The reviewer Dajkov probably accepted all the suggestions given by Vazov, because it was impossible for the review to be printed without his approval. It all happened with the mediation of A. Ivanov. Dejkov must have felt the pressure coming from Vazov’s name and adapted the text to the demands. It is possible that he even made additional corrections, supplemented by positive assessments, succumbing to the authority of the big name. We even dare to assume that after the unsatisfactory assessments of Vazov, the editor himself had his share in the text. This is seen in another letter by Vazov addressed to A. Iliev, dated January 30, 1900: “Thank you very much for the review, I could not have wished for a better one” (Периодика и литература, т. 2, 1993: 482). This situation is a sufficient indicator of the power of the writer who with his established name is influential in literature and politics, but also on the critic and critical thought. After all, the same is true today.
Criticism of criticism or the anger of the critic and the criticized: the Bitrakov Case
We dwell on this chapter as one of the most representative examples of criticism of criticism or the anger of the criticized. It is a matter of the so-called “Bitrakov Case” in which we can follow the review of Stefan Pop Ivanov (signed as Грѫдовянинъ) entitled “Scientific Department – Critique: A Primer. Written by A. М. Bitrakov, 1897” published in issue 2 of Novini from 1897 and the answer of Aleksandar Bitrakov entitled “Response to the criticism of my primer” from the same year.
Referring to Bitrakov’s textbook, S. P. Ivanov expressed himself completely negatively about this work. “The most careless and unimportant one considers himself capable of teaching in the classroom,” “the most inexperienced thinks of himself as being able to write a primer”, “the pedagogical, didactic and educational principles are either not known at all, and if known are sometimes forgotten when they are most needed,” etc. (Грѫдовянинъ, 1897: 3). In addition, S. P. Ivanov listed all of Bitrakov’s mistakes, which according to him were out of ignorance, not knowing and catastrophic in every way: “Yes! Yes! In his primer we will find a pile, so to speak, of misspelled words” and concludes: “The lines in your esteemed newspaper prevent me from exposing all the pedagogical sins committed by A. М. Bitrakov in compiling the primer.”
The negative review of the textbook affected the author A. Bitrakov, and soon after, in issue 10 of the same newspaper, he responded to the criticism. He recognized that S. P. Ivanov was hidden under the pseudonym Grondovjanin’s (“Грѫдовянинъ“), and after revealing his name, first spoke about the meaning of criticism, and then the critic. He wrote: “While criticism has the lofty aim of showing the errors in a work in a convincing way, without affecting the personality of the author himself, my critic has taken my personality more as the basis of his criticism than my work. Such criticism, not only turns criticism into pornography, but came out of the pen of a pedagogue (underlined in the original – white S.K.), is not at all pedagogical” (Bitrakov, 1897: 3).
Bitrakov reviewed all the remarks made by his reviewer, stopping at and answering each of them in detail. He also answered questions related to general literacy and pedagogy, pointing out some contradictory views of S. P. Ivanov, referring to well-known foreign authorities of the time such as Gracer and Basarichek, but also well-known Macedonian and Bulgarian pedagogues such as A. Naumov and V. Manchev. Bitrakov ended his response to the criticism with the words: “Finally, I ask all the teachers working in the first grade to comment as well, and I will return to this question.” The text was written in Thessaloniki, dated October 27, 1897.