Translated from the Bulgarian by Joseph Benatov
"A compelling thriller."—Los Angeles Times
"Zift is like a flaming shot of rotgut smuggled in from the old country…Vladislav Todorov adroitly uses the American genre of noir to excoriate the political villains of his homeland's past…Zift is gritty and brisk."—Matt Jakubowski, City Paper
"Todorov's raw, hard-boiled parody takes dead aim at noir and leaves it gasping for breath."—Michael Pinker, Review of Contemporary Fiction
December 21, 1963: Having served 20 years for a murder he didn't commit, "Moth" exits Central Sofia Prison anticipating his first night of freedom. Instead he steps into a new and alien world—the nightmarish totalitarianism of Communist Bulgaria. In his first hours of freedom he traverses the map of a diabolical city, full of decaying neighborhoods, gloomy streets, and a bizarre parade of characters.
A novel of grave wit, Zift unfolds in the course of a single, frenetic night, offering a fast-paced, ghoulish, even grotesque—but also enchanting—tour of shadowy, socialist Sofia. To achieve his depiction of totalitarian absurdity, Vladislav Todorov combines the methods of hardboiled American crime fiction and film noir with socialist symbols and communist ideological clichés.
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"Pulp fiction by a historian of ideas."—Literary Weekly
"Todorov was obviously raised on a steady diet of American noir, and it shows in the pacing, the language, and the shadowy depths of every alleyway, every street corner. It's not just the witty 'Moth,' but the city of Sofia, that, despite 20 years of oppression, endures." —Jessa Crispin on PBS's Need to Know [link]
"The novel interweaves the key tropes of Soviet socialist realism and American hard-boiled detective fiction to produce a richly intertextual portrayal of a nightmarish—yet comical—Bulgarian communist society in late 1963."—Three Percent [link]
"…stalking its genre with the meticulousness of an assassin, while simultaneously parodying it. A novel that unfolds over a single night, in a single breath—and also reads that way…a black-and-white cinematographic vision of early-1960s Sofia by Night."—Georgi Gospodinov, author of Natural Novel
"Zift is a play on the pulp noir genre, in book and film, and Todorov has fun playing it to the hilt."—The Complete Review
"Zift is part noir, part crime story, part social satire, part black comedy (extremely black), part absurdist fairy tale"—BiblioBuffet
Zift, Vladislav Todorov's debut novel, was a finalist for the 2007 Vick Prize as Bulgarian Novel of the Year and a nominee for the Elias Canetti National Literary Prize. Todorov also wrote the screenplay for the 2008 film version of Zift. Variety hailed the movie as "an instant midnight fest fave." Todorov teaches film and literature at the University of Pennsylvania.
Joseph Benatov holds a BA and an MA from Sofia University and a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Pennsylvania, where he currently teaches.