Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Historian Week 5 Questions and Discussion...

After tonight, we have one week left in The Historian readalong -- I hope you've enjoyed this as much as we have! Only a couple questions this week...

Paul and Helen have had quite an incredible journey together, and in this short section, they are accompanied by the watchful Ranov as they tour Bulgaria and interact with Stoichev to learn more about the monks who have written about the transport of an incredible treasure, that could be Vlad Tepes' body or his head, and the hope that the two are reunited.  I was also incredibly saddened to hear about the "amnesia" that Professor Rossi also experienced, separating him from Helen's mother forever.
  1. We're getting closer to the truth...Last week, the general response was that it seemed to be a much slower point than the other sections.  What do you think of the story's momentum thus far in this week's section?
  2. What has jumped out at you that you'd like to discuss with the group?
"I am glad to have the chance to talk with anyone who is interested in our medieval history," Stoichev said to me.  "Perhaps it would be interesting for you and Miss Rossi to see a holiday that celebrates two of our great medieval figures.  Tomorrow is the day of Kiril and Methodii, creators of the great Slaonic alphabet.  In English you would say Cyril and Methodius -- you call it Cyrilic, do you not?  We say kirilitsa, for Kiril, the monk who invented it." (Ch. 57)

Kiril and Methodii, painted by Stanislav Dospavski
"After a moment, he went into one of the other rooms and came back carrying a paper-covered volume, which proved to be an old scholarly journal printed in German. 'I had a friend --" he stopped. 'If only he had lived to see this day!  I told you -- his name was Atanas Angelov -- yes, he was a Bulgarian historian and one of my first teachers.  In 1923 he was doing some researches in the library at Rila, which is one of our great treasure-houses of medieval documents."  (Ch. 58)

"If my first glimpse of Stoichev's house had filled me with sudden hopelessness, my first glimpse of Rila Monastery filled me with awe.  The monastery sat in a dramatically deep valley -- almost filling it, at that point -- and above its walls and domes rose the Rila Mountains, which are very steep and forested with tall spruces."  (Ch. 61)

Rila Monastery, from An American in Bulgaria
"The great wooden doors of the gate were open, and we went through them into a sight I can never forget.  Around us loomed the striped walls of the monastery fortress, with their alternating patterns of black and red on white plaster, hung with long wooden galleries.  Filling a third of the enormous courtyard was a church of exquisite proportions, its porch heavily frescoed, its pale green domes alight in the midday sun.  Beside it stood a muscular, square tower of gray stone, visibly older than everything else in sight.  Stoichev told us that this was Hrelyo's Tower, built by a medieval nobleman as a haven from his political enemies.  It was the only remaining part of the earliest monastery on the site, which had been burned by the Turks and rebuilt centuries later in this striped splendor."  (Ch. 61)

Rila Monastery

Rila Monastery Courtyard, striped walls
Rila Monastery
Hrelyo's Tower, photo by Bojidar Hinkov
The "Chronicle" claims that they traveled only a short distance -- "not much farther" -- from the monastery at Bachkovo, located about thirty-five kilometers south of Asenovgrad on the Chepelarska River.  Clearly, Sveti Georgi was situated somewhere in south central Bulgaria.  This area, which includes much of the Rhodope Mountains, was among the last Bulgarian regions to be conquered by the Ottomans; some particularly rugged terrain inthe area was never brought under full Ottoman domination.  If Sveti Georgi was located in the mountains, this might have accounted in part for its selection as a relatively safe resting place for the remains of Vlad III."  (Ch. 59)

Ruins of Sveti Georgi
"Stefan reports through Zacharias that his friends were "interrogated" in the town of Haskovo before being tortured and killed, which suggests that Ottoman authorities believed they possessed politically sensitive information of some sort.  Haskovo is located in southeast Bulgaria, a region that was securely under Ottoman command by the fifteenth century." (Ch. 59)

Haskovo Ruins
Yours in profoundest grief,
Coffee and a Book Chick
Tedious & Brief


9 comments:

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

We're getting closer to the truth...Last week, the general response was that it seemed to be a much slower point than the other sections. What do you think of the story's momentum thus far in this week's section?

The momentum has definitely taken off...I barely can stand to stop reading at this point because I'm so anxious to get some answers!!!!!
For the first time so far I've started peeking toward the end. My oldest daughter gets so angry with me when I do this...she asked me just yesterday if I had looked ahead...honestly, I had not...until tonight...I still do not understand what's going to happen though :(

Trish said...

Wow, once again beautiful pictures! I really must see about taking a trip to Eastern Europe some day. Maybe a tour based on The Historian? That would be so cool.

Anyway, back to the story. Yes, it has picked up the pace again. Rossi's letter about waking up in Dracula's lair had me rapt. I was hunched over in my comfy reading chair totally absorbed in his story -gah- creepy! And then it was time to turn out the lights and go to bed. *shudder* And now I have about 50 pages left and I don't want to pick the book up until I know I can read it all in one go right to the end. I am anxious to wrap it up and get some answers, but I want to savor it as well. Such is the dilemma with such a good book!

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

1. We're getting closer to the truth...Last week, the general response was that it seemed to be a much slower point than the other sections. What do you think of the story's momentum thus far in this week's section? I did also find that last week's section was a lot slower than I anticipated it to be, although I still enjoyed it. This week, I have loved every riveting moment of it! The part when you realize that Rossi was forced to forget his time in Transylvania, thus forgetting all about his relationship with Helen's mother? My heart broke in that section for them!

2. What has jumped out at you that you'd like to discuss with the group? When Helen realizes that Rossi truly was forced to forget about her and her mother was one that drew on my heartstrings quite a bit! But, I also enjoyed the historical references and routes taken by the monks -- I love how the book is in that epistolary format, and then how it truly delves into more fictionalized history (several sections true), one right after another. I'm totally enjoying their journey, and am remembering the creepy feelings that I originally felt five years ago when I first read it!

Beachreader said...

Great pictures.
Ok, I must confess that the pace picked up so much that I couldn't put the book down and finished it last week.

With that being said - I will wait until the last week's questions to
comment.

Heather J. said...

I didn't realized that the building were so ... stripe-y. I mean, they are described that way but I never would have visualized it like that. They really are gorgeous, and so very different than anything I've seen before.

I'm really enjoying the book and the extra "stuff" you are posting for the read-a-long - great job!. However, breaking the book into sections has actually made me enjoy it less. I get really into the story and then feel like I should stop at the end of that week's section. A few days pass before I pick it up again, and by then the momentum is lost. I realize that is MY problem (and not the fault of my hosts, who have done an excellent job!) - I could have simply kept on reading ahead of the group. :) Well, lesson learned - next time I do a read-a-long and I'm really enjoying the book, I'll just continue at my own pace.

Cat said...

The pace certainly picked up - fortunately I left my reading until the end of the week so only had to wait a day before continuing.

The story of Rossi and Helen's mother added the necessary emotional content and was so sad but it was definitely the history and the opportunity to google images and info that I've enjoyed most. One of the good things about a readalong is that it allows one time to do that.
I certainly didn't expect that this book would be so much more than just a story.

That monastery and its setting is amazing.

Nise' said...

I was able to keep up listening to the book on vacation and did not feel the slow momentum but definitely feel the excitment building as the ending is in sight. Thank you for sharing the pictures it enhances the reading so much.

pickygirlfoodfilmfiction said...

Wow - Natalie - what an excellent site. I wish I didn't have such a busy semester at the moment so I could have participated. I absolutely love this book and intend a re-read as soon as possible.

The photos are amazing. I want to go. I went to Prague a couple of years ago, and some of the architecture is similar. Those views! Incredible.

Have fun, and I hope to join a readalong soon and sooner.

Annie @ButteryBooks said...

The photos are breathtaking and so much more beautiful and intricate than I imaged.
Historical fiction is my favorite genre, so I have completely devoured the historical aspects of this novel. I also love, love creepy-gothic, make-my-hair-stand-on-end reads so I have thouroughly enjoyed rereading this novel. In fact, I think I've been more spooked with this second reading! The comments are great.

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