Escape is the subject of Nicki Pawlow’s life. When she was a teenager, she fled from Eastern to Western Germany. Later in life, she fled from arguments with her father. Today, the subject of escape is still there, since she helps refugees in Berlin. When she does not write, she teaches them German, and offers literacy classes, for those in need.
“The Bulgarian Physician” (“Der bulgarische Arzt”) is an autobiographical novel. The story of her family. It starts with fascination: There is Wantscho, a Bulgarian man, who seems exotic, and Rose, who is longing for an adventure, within the grey, daily routine in the GDR. The first years of their marriage, in Bulgaria, will be adventurous indeed. The same applies to their big escape across the Iron Curtain.
But Watscho, Nicki’s father, a psychologist, is a man with two faces. He suffers from something, psychological pain, which he is good at easing, when it comes to his patients, but not when it is his own.
Years later, “Nelli” (who is really Nicki) will search for answers. Who was her father, who was close to her all her life, while being distant at the same time?
The impulse for writing “Der bulgarische Arzt” hit her, while she was visiting her dying father. Therefore, the novel starts and ends with scenes, in which she, “Nelli”, is sitting next to his death bed. “I could only write this book after his death”, Pawlow says in an interview with the German publication “Der Tagesspiegel”.
By Imanuel Marcus
Photo at top of page by Nicki Pawlow.