The literary work that chronicled the country's tobacco past is believed to have been inspired by faces and stories under the hills


Cover photo: The house of Antim I, Dimitra Lefterova

Tobacco was written in Plovdiv. In the city, as an associate professor of anatomy and physiology of domestic animals in the Faculty of Agronomy, Dimitar Dimov lived in several places - in the Commercial High School, where the faculty was originally located, in the so-called Crafts School, today the High School in Interior Architecture and Woodworking (in the corner room with a balcony) and for a short time at 14 Antim I Street. Here, in this environment of rich people, of matinees, parties, big deals and dramatic twists, Dimitar Dimov found some of the prototypes and drew ideas for his novel - he gathered impressions of the tobacco warehouses and the workers in them.

There are all sorts of assumptions about who the real faces behind the images of Boris Morev and Irina, Kostov and Gayer are. It is believed that for inspiration for his character Kostov, the writer used the chief expert of the Plovdiv branch of the Orient Tabaco enterprise - Kocho Apostolov, who later started an independent business. With the publication of Tobacco in Plovdiv, it became clear that in addition to Kocho Apostolov, his wife Dr. Marena Kolusheva was also depicted in the novel. She stood behind the figure of Irina. Marena was the daughter of a diplomat, ambassador in Turkey during the First World War. He graduated in medicine among the first in terms of success in his course, worked in the capital and in Plovdiv, but after his marriage he stopped practicing until the end of the 1950s, when he returned to Sofia. In this case, we are talking about borrowed biographical moments, partial physical resemblance and character traits. Dimitar Dimov himself didn’t hide this from his close circle.

In Plovdiv, the writer met other of his prototypes - the partisan and later journalist Julie Levieva is the prototype of Varvara, the idol of the Plovdiv tobacco industry Nikola Balkandzhiev - of Shishko.

One of the most iconic locations in the novel, Nicotiana's warehouse, also has its counterpart in the city under the hills. This is the building of Orient Tabaco at 8 Edirne Street, which unfortunately has already been demolished today.

The novel itself was written in 1951 and was subjected to severe criticism. In 1954, it was published in its final version for the period of socialist realism, and the original version was presented in 1992. The book was translated into over 20 languages and brought its author international fame.

It was adapted into film in 1961, with Nevena Kokanova as Irina and Yordan Matev as Boris Morev in the main roles. This was the first Bulgarian film admitted to the selection of the Cannes Film Festival in 1963, and still remains one of the few included in it at all.