Who is Nikolai Fol?

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[A snippet of one of the four recently discovered fables by Nikolai Fol, written in the 1930s]

One of the most versatile and well-known Bulgarian authors of the 20th c., Nikolai Fol, was born as Nikolai Todorov Georgiev on January 13, 1899 in Berkovitsa, Bulgaria. His father, Todor Georgiev, was a teacher and bank clerk, who founded the first church choir in Bulgaria, as well as the first theatre collective, comprising teachers. His mother, Nikolina Atanasova was a pedagogue educated at the Nantchev’s teachers’ school in Shumen and at a French college, and daughter of one of the builders of the first train railway between Rousse and Varna.

Nikolai Todorov Georgiev graduates from the Trade High School in Sofia and then completes his university education in theatre directing and dramaturgy in Berlin in 1930. Max Reinhardt himself counts among his teachers. Upon returning from Berlin Nikolai Todorov Georgiev legally adopts his most famous pen-name as his family name by adapting the spelling of the name of the Greek centaur Φόλος to Fol.

Fol begins his literary work as early as 1916. As a student he collaborates with the humour magazine “Balgaran”, edited by Hr. Podvarzatchov and Al. Balabanov. Fol establishes creative contacts with Prof. Al. Balabanov, Al. Zhendov, El. Pelin and others. During WWI, as an officer at the Doiran front, he continues to write stories and feuilletons.

From 1918 until 1922, he serves, with only a couple of interruptions, as editor of “Balgaran”. Together with Hr. Smirnenski he stars the humour magazine “Masquarade”. Smirnenski dedicates to him his famous poem “Knights after battle”. Fol collaborates with the literary weekly magazines “Razvigor”, “Literary voice” and others. 1926-1933 he edits the humour magazine “Horo”. In 1932 he founds a children’s theatre school, which he directs until the autumn of 1939.

He serves as director in the theatres in Plovdiv (1940-41) and Varna (1941-43), director and dramaturg at the Greater Sofia theatre (1941-47), Sliven theatre (1947-48), Pazardzhik (1948-49), Rousse (1949-50), Gabrovo (1950-51), Pleven (1951-53), Bourgas (1954-57), Vratza (1957-63). In 1951 he organizes in Sofia a children’s theatre school, as well as an adult theatre school at the cultural centre “Slavyanska beseda”.

In concurrence with his activity as theatre director and dramaturg, he publishes fairy tales in children’s magazines “Svetulka” and “Detska radost”. He dramatizes and reworks for children and youths “Bay Ganyo” by Konstantinov, “Ivanko” by Drumev, “Mitrofan and Dormidolski” by Vazov, “The little red riding hood” by the Grimm brothers, and others.

Fol translates around 30 plays from German and Russian. He is the first person to translate Berthold Brecht in Bulgarian. Fol writes critiques, literary and theatre-related articles in different magazines and newspapers. He signs with various pen names: Pirin-Radiali, Beliyat Dyavol (The White Devil), Nastasya Filopovna, Fol (which becomes his family name)

Nikolai Fol receives the title “Honoured Artist” from the Bulgaria state for his artistic activities. He dies on March 14, 1969. He is father of Thracologist Alexander Fol and grandfather of composer Alexandra Fol.

He has written a number of books, plays and stories, including:

“The small dug-out” Humour pages, 1918
“Unimportant events” Short stories, 1920
“Summer” – novella, 1923
“The red lantern” – short stories, 1925
“People and dictator”, 1928
“Aleko’s Bay Ganyo. Adaptations for children by Nikolai Fol”, 1929
“The miraculous adventures of Meshko and his friend Taralejko.” – Children’s novel, 1934 (1934).
“Tatuntcho and Tatunka. How two children and a cat flew to the moon with a zeppelin”, 1932
“The golden bride. A fairy-tale game.”, 1933
“A sunny home” – fairy tales and legends, 1946
“Theatre in the entr’actes. Thoughts and aphorisms”, 1948 (1971)
“Three desires”, 1975.
“Stories, plays. Selected works”, 1979
“The small golden donkey. Amusing fairy tales”

“A hunter’s wedding” – comedy, 1931 (1934)
“Conjugal chains” – comedy, 1932
“The princess with nine fingers”. – a fairy-tale game, 1932
“The king’s new clothes” – comedy, 1935
“The wedding of Mickey Mouse”, 1935 (1945, 1946)
“A united company: a cooperative play in three acts”, 1939
“Chernozem” – drama, 1967
“The golden bride”
“The little red riding hood”
“The living doll”
“United company”
“The sold axe”