When I feel a little bit blue or simply tired my best medicine is to treasure-hunting in charity shops. A few days ago I was miraculously rewarded with a whole pile of beauty and I picked up half a dozen of very well preserved children's books with fairy tales from the communist times. A lot of translation work from the soviet brother countries has been done in the German Democratic Republic, and not only literature for adults. The illustrations in the children's books are really adorable and mostly inspired by folk art. Don't get me wrong - I am not a nostalgic of communism. But as a complete stranger to the political reality of Socialism - I spend the first half of my life in the western part of Germany - I just pick up some leftovers of a vanishing culture, where Asia was much more near to a part of Europe than it seems to be now.
I love this first example which comes from Bulgaria (German edition Sofia 1989), the tale of the Prince and the Virgin of the Stars. Much of the illustration reminds me of Byzantine art; the depiction of the King, for example is almost a copy of the portrait of the Emperor Niceforos Botaniates (in the middle) from the 11th century.
The prince trying to catch the princess wears Roman armour that belongs to the traditional depiction of St. George. Also the architectural details on the picture can be found on Byzantine icons.
And, of course, folk art is the second source of the book's illustrations with monsters and mythical creatures.
Story: Fani Pejtschewa
Illustrations: Wenelin Walkanow
Published: Sofia, Bulgaria 1986, German translation 1989.
Byzantine icons: here and here.
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