Host: Bulgarian memory, dear listeners, seems to have this ability to remember and glorify the heroes more than the silent workers of the case, who stubbornly and silently implement the small changes leading to the big events – let me quote here Prof. Ivaylo Znepolski. It is no coincidence that Toncho Zhechev with such devotion dedicated the Bulgarian Easter or the Bulgarian Passions to Todor Ikonomov, a forgotten figure of the Bulgarian Revival, hidden behind the powerful and deified figures of Georgi Sava Rakovski, Hristo Botev, Vasil Levski (he has a birthday today, July 18 ), Georgi Benkovski. Today in the show, however, we will talk about another such Bulgarian historical figure, and maybe not a historical one, because we have witnessed, watched and listened to her, who has the same big, something more gigantic in my opinion, and does her deeds. not with revolutionary pathos, but in the embrace of silence, of calm, but sometimes restless and methodical work, in the classroom. The man in question, the educator, the awakener, and some even call him a preacher, is Prof. Isaac Passy. A name that I am convinced they know, or at least have learned even the most distant from the essence of his activities – philosophy and aesthetics. Of course, because of his colossal book publishing, the volumes could hardly be counted, but only in the series “Aesthetics and Art History” appeared, if I’m not mistaken, 25 with introductory studies, notebook reference apparatus, name index – all as it is right for an academic publication.
March 13 this year marked the 90th anniversary of his birth, but not this formal occasion, and the scale of what Prof. Isaac Passy did is the reason for our conversation with his son Solomon Passy and Assoc. Prof. Zdravko Popov – one of the people who communicated with him up close and shared his spiritual pursuits. I would like to turn to Mr. Solomon Passy with another question: It is clear that your father’s scientific work, his legendary lectures, are things that are known by many, but it will be interesting to us – both to me and to the listeners. – what was he like as a father, in our preliminary conversation you shared that he took you to Vitosha, he often taught you chess, you even shared three rules that he taught you to follow during the game, and not only – life rules . So, more strict or more cordial father was Prof. Isaac Passy?
Passy: He was completely obsessed with his profession, he was a workaholic. He is the only person I can think of who combines the following qualities: extremely productive, but never in a hurry and never late. He had for himself the ideal of the rhythm of human activity – the activity of the switchmen at the station. He watched these people walk very slowly with a long key that knocked on the rails and always did so at the exact minute before the train left. He admired these people and supported them to some extent, it was a German pedantry – he had a lot of German upbringing in his spirit, although German was not his first language.
Host: Who was the first?
Passy :: English was his first, German after that, Spanish, Russian fluent. At a relatively late age, he began to learn French and learned it, so he was fluent in European languages. Of course, as a lawyer he had studied Latin at university and kept that knowledge, so he was largely a humanist, although as a humanist he could count very well and even coached me with small calculations, mostly arithmetic. I remember being a first-grader when he shaved in front of the fence and said, “Think how many 325 and 563 I have, that I need something to do today.” , and so it condensed my time, so I can say that he was largely my first math teacher.
Host: Did you know Assoc. Prof. Popov in this light – as a friend, as an interlocutor, so to speak, in an informal setting?
Prof. Popov: My meeting with Prof. Passy began during my investigation, when I was studying philosophy in the first half of the 70s and his appearance before us was very impressive. We had a unified, ideological form of education, and anyone who found an individual reading or had his own view, either on history or on our relevance, immediately stood out in our eyes. Prof. Passy was the man who was very different from the other professors. It was something like our excuse, our argument why we chose to study philosophy, because you know it’s a worrying question, it worries people from the time of choice and during study, during and after life.
Dealing with philosophy from the time of the ancient Greeks is a really worrying question, and it is worrying in terms of whether it makes sense to study philosophy, because it is somehow very special compared to everyday activities. The question is whether philosophy is something meaningful to do and whether it is the most meaningful thing, and since most of the teachers at the time did not serve as such a support to get us out of this state of anxiety and worry, in fact Prof. Isaac Passy was the man who, with his own, so to speak, nature, with his own way of lecturing, with his views, with his whole presence, he was actually for us one of the most important things in studying, namely that it is worthwhile to engage in philosophy. So this is my first meeting with him, a meeting with the person who justified my choice to study this, but not only to study this, but to choose it as a profession. There were very few people in the Faculty of Philosophy these years and I think that his presence in front of our generation is quite tangible and quite serious. Of course, I had the chance later, becoming a professor at the Faculty of Philosophy, to have the good fortune to communicate with him.
Host: How does a former student, that is, a student, communicate with his teacher?
Prof. Popov: Always with the respect that has been created since the student years. I had a high degree of respect for Prof. Passy for all his intellect, for his integrity, for his morality, and you can’t cross that line, even though he gave you the opportunity to shorten it and treat you like a colleague. However, this attitude of respect for the less knowledgeable to the more knowledgeable remained for most of the time. He was something of a guide, a kind of intellectual guide for my generation. Both before and after the changes he showed an enviable ability, an enviable sense of truth, plausibility, authenticity, because before and after the changes it turned out to be the great deficit of Bulgaria – a deficit of integrity and authenticity of human existence, behavior and thinking.
Host: Assoc. Prof. Popov, you have defined Prof. Passy as the father of the Bulgarian spiritual enlightenment, and there are other definitions for him – creator of oases, preacher, but let me ask you this, this question is also to Mr. Passy: ” If you have to compare Prof. Iask Passy with any of the figures in world history, and if you want Bulgarian history, what name comes to mind? ”
Prof. Popov: It is full of names, it is difficult, very difficult.
Host: He says in one place “Thank you, Father Baruch Spinoza.” Did he identify, Mr. Passy, with Baruch Spinoza?
Passy: Oh no, by no means did he ever identify with figures he considered colossi, on the contrary, he lived with a reverence for them and would not allow himself to identify with them. He often talked about his students at home and spared no admiration for those he admired. I still remember some of their names; That’s how I met Zdravko – because of the way she talked about him. He seemed like a valuable person to meet. With him we made the Wittgenstein circle – with Zdravko and five other people. So we had this type of meaningful extracurricular activities, not by obligation. We gathered in student dormitories, where we unraveled Wittgenstein’s logical-philosophical treatise, and we as a circle came to an extraordinary insight into Wittgenstein. I have dealt with Wittgenstein in my other life as a mathematician and logician, but Wittgenstein was always considered a very difficult author, especially in his philosophy, and the insight we reached in the circle is that in order to understand Wittgenstein we must we read back and forth. We began to read Wittgenstein’s logical-philosophical treatise back and forth, and we also translated into Bulgarian Bertrand Russell’s preface to this treatise in those foggy 1980s of socialism, and it turned out that such things were not as impossible as they were described to us. . By the way, my father encouraged us all a lot to try new things that are considered taboo. My father was constantly trying, and I think one of his main functions was to be a conductor of Western philosophy, literature, and culture. And not of any Western literature, but of the censored, ignored, disliked, stigmatized, and so on and so forth, philosophy of communism.
This was one of his main activities, and the other was, of course, teaching, enlightenment, teaching, as well as his own research in various philosophical fields – research of authors, currents and, interestingly for me, there was a geographical study of philosophy ( will study once German classical aesthetics, secondly French moralists, and thirdly Spanish philosophy such as Jose Ortega and Gasset or Cervantes, and in the 1990s, when this was no longer fashionable, he turned to Russian authors, Russian classical aesthetics). These were some of the main currents of his activity and at the same time, of course, he was on the verge of dropping out of the system. During communism, he managed to escape, he had many friends – they were a wide intellectual circle of the Faculty of Philosophy. They escaped the constant danger of the sanctions of communism, which according to the scale of communism were deserved, but subsequently failed to save itself and received completely undeserved sanctions from the democratic system, including canceling the de facto competition for a corresponding member. of BAS. This remained a complete mystery, ie not a mystery, because Zdravko and I have been in politics for quite some time and we explain these processes, but for an external, objective observer it is hysteria. The interesting thing was that during communism my father very categorically refused to receive orders from the system, from the status quo. He was invited as an adviser to Lyudmila Zhivkova, which he refused, he was invited to be sent as an ambassador to UNESCO in Paris, which he also refused and thanks to which I did not learn French as best I could. Many people at that time would say “Hey great, I’m going, and the kids will learn French, I’ll give them another time in life!”, But no, for him it was absolutely unacceptable. As much as he was a philosopher and engaged in abstract philosophical matter, for example, he was very passionate and managed to teach me to play chess, and chess left me with three basic rules. One is that it is better to play with the wrong plan than without the plan. The second is to never rely on the opponent’s mistake, and the third is when your opponent is about to make you a checkmate, do not take his pawn at the end of the board, ie when deciding the fate of the world, do not deal with dust on the street. Speaking of my father’s students and pupils, now there is a person who lives in his office – his student Assoc. Prof. Ivan Kolev, who every year holds a conference dedicated to my father and I am really grateful to see that his work remains extended.
Host: This is interesting what you say, because the memory of him does not fade, despite a statement in Ivaylo Lepolski’s book about how things change: that somehow the efforts of the educators have not continued
Prof. Popov: Isaac Passy was a special kind of politician – not in a party sense, but throughout his career as a translator, commentator, publisher of Western thinkers – this was a special policy that he pursued in an extremely delicate way. For people with a higher sensitivity to the realities we lived in, it was a kind of intellectual dissent and protest against the environment, against the regime, against the order, against the system – without necessarily having such ambition or deliberately setting it as an individual goal. . On the contrary, he understood that sometimes through philosophy and art and culture there is a much greater social and political effect than direct, direct political maneuver. He was an exceptional politician and, among other things, he was an exceptional politician. When I was a student in the 70’s, he already had his own monographs. It was in the 1970s that he began this work of translating, commenting on, and publishing texts on Western European cultural history. I have one hypothesis of mine – although he has never sought identification with the authors and philosophers of the European world; his monographs have made a huge contribution to aesthetics and cultural studies. I think there is an extremely important element in his policy – these are his prefaces. I consider them to be unique in their nature small works of the spirit. There I see the true politics of Isaac Passy and the way he finds spiritual closeness and spiritual connection with the authors he presents. For me, there is a series of authors that he presents and presents himself through them separately. (Unlike other authors, whom he presents in the same way, but without necessarily feeling that he identifies) The three authors are: Thomas Mann, Friedrich Nisze, Jose Ortega and Gasset. The three Mann, Nietzsche and Ortega are associated with a very special intellectual progress and intellectual critique – the so-called “Beneliced civilization”. The appearance of the silvered man, the appearance of the measured man, of the inauthentic man, which more and more becomes a subject of history and which really destroys values and traditions.
This is a particular concern. Which these authors with their critical reflection on the modern world seem to warn the world to be very careful with a special type of European, which will become dangerous for the values, for the decoration, for the cultural traditions type of person. I saw this in my younger years – I saw the mission of Isaac Passy. He consciously translates culturally significant things; he did not deal with low-stemmed literature / philosophy. His enlightenment work was not simply about translations. He was very selective because he understood that in both the East and the West there was an awful lot of low-stemmed literature and falsehood — a philosophy and inauthentic thought that had been popularized and become an everyday consciousness. Therefore, he insisted on maintaining a kind of intellectual aristocracy, like the position of a sage. Isaac Passy graduated in law and is actually studying philosophy. He did not graduate in philosophy and that is very important to me. Many of the great philosophers of the 20th century did not graduate in philosophy. They come from other fields: psychology, psychiatry, music. In this sense, they carry a much sharper sensitivity that has not passed through the pedagogical educational machine of standardized and clichéd thinking. My idea of his choice to study philosophy, teach and write on philosophy, he had a mission in his youth.
Host: Did your father feel pushed to the periphery of philosophy?
Passy: Not at all. On the contrary – I have no impression that anyone has guided him. I don’t remember there being any official distribution – you will go into aesthetics
Host: Then how did he choose aesthetics?
Pass: Smooth. I was very young and I have no memory of his exact path. I highly recommend listeners who are interested in his life to read the biography that Maria Dinkova wrote about him.
Which is an extremely conscientious, meticulous and academically written biography of a man who has known my father since they were both 5-6 years old.
Host: I ask you exactly about the biography of Isaac Passy by Maria Dinkova, because she pays special attention there, a whole chapter of Georgi Plekhanov, and sees Isaac Passy’s focus on philosophy and aesthetics under the influence of Plekhanov?
Passy: I may not have witnessed this period. My impressions of him are superficial, but he has not been pushed here or there; he actively sought confrontation when he had something to confront – in the philosophical field he confronted the most powerful man in Bulgarian science – Acad. Todor Pavlov (member of the Politburo) My father was the successor of Dimitar Mihalchev, who was the “enemy” of Todor Pavlov. My father did not accept Todor Pavlov’s theory of reflection, which I personally find infantile. Many times my father came home with the words: “I do not know if I will not be fired tomorrow.” Todor Pavlov was the only person in the Politburo who was allowed to object to Todor Zhivkov.
Prof. Popov: The theory of reflection was really a profane theory, without a philosophical IQ.
Host: This theory was vulgar materialism, but it was a dominant position anyway.
Prof. Popov: I have memories that Todor Pavlov had a very strong influence with his theory of reflection, even in the USSR, where he was quoted as a great classic. Few people fought this battle with Todor Pavlov. Professor Passy was one of them. The other was Associate Professor Aristotle Gavrilov, who fought a battle from the point of view of understanding the nature of consciousness. I was fortunate enough to be his assistant; he also told me about the difficult years of the 50s and 60s in this battle, which was fought by relatively few people: Kiril Vassilev, Isak Passy, Dobrin Spasov and others. A group that has “barricaded” itself in the Faculty of Philosophy and created a very special atmosphere of critical thinking, allowing students to find in these battles the additional basis for the need for critical philosophy, thinking and behavior (including moral)
Host: Prof. Passy does not talk about his clash with Todor Pavlov, but in fact it was very difficult
Prof. Popov: It is difficult for the reason that if some of the people had any theoretical disputes, the suspicion of Isaac Passy was of a much higher degree of danger; namely, this is a man with a mission. The government is most afraid of people who have a mission. In that sense, I would separate Isaac Passy from the group I listed a moment ago because he has a long-term cause. The government is very sensitive to such people – such a person is a dangerous element in the system and you have to be very careful with him.
Host: During the division of the Faculty of History and Philosophy, files were opened for him and Nikolay Genchev. Prof. Passy’s file is called Scorpio. When asked by one of the informants at the university what Prof. Passy’s manifestations were, the answer was: “He has a goal and he pursues it, but there is no one at his intellectual level who understands it. Did your father have a sense of mission, Mr. Passy?
Passy: If I have to describe my father in one word, the word is “book.” He comes closest to this concept. He had his own culture of reading, having books he read more than once (sometimes he said that a book that doesn’t make sense to read a second time doesn’t make sense to read it a first time). He also had his own culture of writing and book-making (book-making also includes artistic design – he always chose the best artist. He worked with Zheko Alexiev for the longest time. He had to choose the best translator of both prose and poetry “The best editor. He had a culture of storing the book. He tied the book he was reading at the moment with a newspaper, removing the cover so it wouldn’t tear and crush. That’s how I knew which book he was reading at the moment.”
Host: And who was the newspaper?
Passy: Very interesting question. There was a special cult of book preservation. Years later, I read in a book by Dostoevsky something that may have stimulated him. Dostoevsky writes: “Reading a book is one thing, but reading a book and binding it is quite another.”
Host: Did you emphasize on the books?
Passy: Yes, he outlined the books, and the book was like an icon to him. He might feel sick if he saw a book left spread out on the table with the covers up and the pages open down, or God forbid someone make a “donkey’s ear” on the book (folding the corner to mark the page). That’s why he always wore a divider. Something that could have blown him up was to see that someone had left a glass of water on the book he was reading. He also had a blacklist for people who did not return the books they borrowed from him. He did not like to give books, he did so with great exceptions.
Now, to the question of the newspaper. The main newspaper that was read in the 70’s in our country was, of course, “Rabotnichesko Delo”, it was official and was the daily, but it was also read “Pogled”, the newspaper “Narodna Kultura” was read a lot and it was even part of from the board of Stefan Bronev in the brightest years of this newspaper. The Literary Front was also read, the Pulse was read. In fact, we read maybe seven, eight, nine newspapers every week – some dailies, others weeklies – and he actually taught me to read newspapers, but what I learned from him was to read the newspapers between the lines. I will not forget a “test” that he gave me – he threw me a “Work Case” and asked me where the trick was. I read it back and forth, back and forth, but I couldn’t find it. Then he told me “Look at a little message on page 3”, and really some very enigmatic message that semi-critical, semi-mysterious about Vladimir Kostov. Then he told me that there would be a big problem with this, and only a week later a scandal broke out that Vladimir Kostov had fled to France and was cooperating with the French services, so reading between the lines greatly created my interest in politics.
Host: We talked about politics, we also talked about Isaac Passy, including as a politician, but in his autobiography he writes that the things he doesn’t like the most and even hate are nonsense and politics. However, you, Mr Passy, have focused on politics. How did your father make this decision?
Passy: He makes my decisions from an early age. At first, I wavered between math and physics, but neither he nor my mother tried to push me from this seemingly abstract science to anything else.
I have actually been involved in politics since 1981. – then was my first visit to the Congress of Solidarity in Gdansk. Then I saw all these people who inspired me after that. It was the autumn of 1981, the month of September, and to this day I remember my return by plane from Warsaw, in the taxi I learned that the then Egyptian President Anwar Sadat had been assassinated. In some form, some softer, some harder, some more visible and some more invisible, we have always been involved in politics, and even this Wittgenstein circle, which I mentioned a moment ago, is a form of scientific policy. Now, where is the transition between scientific policy, moral policy, and operational and party policy? There is a very thin balance and you never know when you have moved from one to the other. In any case, I went from one to the other. In 85, around the Revival process, I adopted a pseudonym – Suleiman Tehlikili, but he looked at my activities as a hobby. Then, when I became an MP, it seemed humiliating to him for a man who set out on the path of science. I was subsequently rehabilitated in his eyes. When the King invited me to be foreign minister, my father said, “Well, the foreign minister can.” Otherwise, my father walked like a hippie – with jeans, long hair, a sweater.
Host: Yes, the first man in jeans at university.
It’s hard for me to say how my father got to aesthetics, but he started from art. Even in his archives we found a play that he wrote in his early years, while still working in Plovdiv. He later served on the artistic council of the Satirical Theater. Love, interest, understanding of art is what pushed him to aesthetics.
Prof. Popov: Perhaps inspired by Dostoevsky’s thesis that beauty will save the world.
Host: I know about one of your operas, in which you sang in 1984. Deyan Deyanov was a librettist.
Prof. Popov: Yes, we did a lot of things, many of which I forgot. What I will hardly forget is the event in the yard of Sofia University in May 1987, where the first manifestation of the dissident poet Petar Manolov took place. (This was a political event; Petar Manolov was allowed to read his poem “100 Patch” on a large loudspeaker – it was a condemnation of communism, fascism, dictatorship) I received neither a sanction nor encouragement. My father believed very much that I would find my own way.
Host: Speaking of politics, let’s talk about the Banev Law, which affects a person like Isaac Passy and more? (People were an alternative to the regime) How did his colleagues accept this whole thing?
Prof. Popov: This law was totally inadequate, compared to the field for which it was intended – and this is the field of education. It was initially accepted with ridicule as the work of people with a very low political culture and unrealized in these professional educational activities. Then, out of ridicule, neglect and condescension, this was seen as a very serious problem that put the whole education system to the test. The leading intellectuals of our educational system, especially in the field of humanities, a very delicate and very sensitive field. It was a great humiliation and disappointment for some details in the biographies of these people, who to one degree or another, even if not of their own volition, had some commitment to the communist system, to be removed in such a ruthless way. I don’t know what was in the souls of these people, but according to the reactions of Prof. Passy and other people, it was a horrible mental situation – a great disgrace.
Passy: In the 1980s, while I was at the Faculty of Mathematics at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, I deliberately was not a member of the Trade Union. (The law said that membership was voluntary) Party secretaries kept coming to persuade me to join the union. These same people later became UDF leaders at the Mathematical Institute. When I was in the habilitation procedure, because I had absolutely all the necessary requisites required by law, and they had to judge me in this competition, however, they voted against all objective materials and said: “When you stop doing politics, then come again to apply. One, because I had signed the 1991 constitution, which they considered treacherous; these same, the party secretaries of the BCP at the Faculty of Mathematics, began to explain to me that I was not a big enough Democrat.
Prof. Popov: This is also the paradox related to your father’s clause. He has been fighting against the average person all along, and it happens to him that after the changes the same average person hits him with his mediocrity. There is a wonderful book by Hannah Arendt, The Banality of Evil, an exceptional book. We have seen this reality of banality, which is at the root of the most sinister things that have happened in our history.
This is the same, everyday average banality that changes clothes in any situation.
Passy: Indeed, my father was an absolute anti-populist. Populism infuriated and disgusted him. I don’t know if it’s connected, but he was also an absolute atheist.
Host: He has a memory of when he stopped believing in God. When the law for the protection of the nation had to be passed, he also prayed to God. He tried it to say, “God, please don’t let this law be passed,” but the law was passed. He says, “Then I stopped believing in God.”
Passy: My father did not believe in artificial authorities, and God is one of them. He believed in science, in the natural development of man, and was an absolute Republican. Unlike my grandfather, who was from the Democratic Party.
Host: How did you accept your work with the King?
Passy: He saw the King as a completely normal person who comes in a normal way and wins elections in a normal way, does normal things in a country. By the way, the Tsar’s political career itself later became a victim of militant populism. This was a harbinger of populism in Europe. What happened in 2016 with Brexit in England and the election of President Trump in America – these are the next manifestations of world populism, which my father has always opposed, especially in its local, national, institutional, faculty or university forms.
Host: We are at the end of our show, what is not always enough time for us, but can it be enough for such a full, full-blooded, full-fledged life
Prof. Popov: I think it is not possible.
Host: Now a question to both my guests: What lesson did you learn from your communication with Isaac Passy, Prof. Popov?
Prof. Popov: I have shared it in other places. For me, one of the most valuable and important traits of Isaac Passy, the most important trace he has left in my experience, and I hope in the experience of my generation, is that high intelligence necessarily goes with high integrity. Prof. Passy was a demonstration of this. The more you respect this man, for his high intelligence and intellectual position, for his intellectual achievements, the more you see in this same man a very high integrity. He showed it in his life. I think that all of us who have witnessed his life and his work, he has kept in all sorts of situations, as an honorable man. He remained faithful to the idea of the integrity, the dignity of the intellectual, of the morality that must accompany anyone who deals with intellectual matters.
Host: You are quoting a thought of Novalev, which Isaac Passy also liked to quote.
Prof. Popov: Yes, it is more related to what you asked half an hour ago about his choice to deal with aesthetics. He is also not a random choice in my opinion and this can be seen in the way his own work is carried out.
And own teaching activity. The choice of the aesthetic is the choice of the artistic, the choice of the poetic. He really had a favorite phrase of Novalis, which is also related to German romanticism – “The more poetic something is, the more true it is.” This connection of truth with poetry with art with culture was leading through Isaac Passy himself. He understood that truth could be affirmed, not through some direct, brutal position and reaction, but through this skilful, artistic matter of the symbolic, of the image of the book, of the word, which in fact has much greater access to reality and even transports reality through its form rather than this direct, brutal invasion.
Passy: My father considered law and the law to be sacred, and he always taught me that the law should be obeyed because it was passed, not because it was good or bad. This pushed him whenever he could to lend a hand to people who had been illegally attacked. He also extended a hand to Asen Ignatov, Dr. Zhelyu Zhelev, Ahmed Dogan, Simon Varsano. He always defended what he taught me was right. He was by no means a revolutionary and did not want to look like one – he was an evolutionist. He had such a scale of activity that I believe that his evolution little by little led to a revolution. This is my inner feeling and I think it was a very meaningful life and today, if he listens to us and looks down on us, he should be satisfied with the balance of his life. I came to this conclusion quite spontaneously after watching the show “Night Birds” by Iskra Angelova a few months ago. I heard different points of view about his work, but even just the fact that the audience at the university where he gave his lectures was named after him (this happened during the rector Ivan Ilchev), says that he received the grade that he deserved it.
Host: Well, to conclude, dear listeners, with the fair and well-deserved assessment of the case of Prof. Isaac Passy. This was today’s edition of The Silent Story. We talked about an exceptional man with his son Solomon Passy and Prof. Zdravko Popov. With wishes to fulfill your life fully and with high meaning, which is done with hard work and dedicated determination.
If you want to hear the whole interview, please follow the link below.