Imre Égerházi – Effendi buying a girl, 1973

I was in Bulgaria with Gyula Madarász, at a artist camp, but not as artists but simple guests, and we were hosted at a grand guesthouse of some brewery. One floor for Gyula, another for me. We felt like kings, with so much space, had plenty of guests, could paint and work as we like it. And all this for one entire month.

Once, a Turkish painter (a good friend of us) invited us over and told he has 3 wives, but not officially; one is the real deal, another is some technician, the third is, I don’t know, his employee or something. This obscure polygamy was taxed by the Bulgarian state for the equivalent of almost a month’s salary. He told us he manages this with one ’wife’ working in the pivo-fabrik, another in the tabak-fabrik to earn the tax. And every 10 years, he takes another wife, always a 18-year old. To be clear: in every 10 years, another 18-year old.

„Oh we’d like that opportunity. This sounds pretty great!” we said. Every 10 years another wife, the first one manages everything and peace with the other two is guaranteed. However, his third wife, the last one, was a real Turkish beauty, not even 18… and we said „In God’s name, what a beautiful woman” and such, and he, with Drafko, puffed his chest and said: „I bought her for only 2 goats! With two goats, you can have a girl like this here in the mountains!” And we asked „Oh God, where is this mountain?”

„Let’s get over there, we have money for two goats, let’s buy us a wife!” Then said Drafko and the other (the older man) that, if we are serious about the translator, we can go to that area, look at the Turkish villages hiding in the mountains, not harassed by the Bulgarians and not overcome by the Bulgarian culture that tries to consume them. First, we boarded a train, then a coach, then a car (the off-road kind), then a donkey or mule and went tot he mountains. It took almost a full day… these two Drafkos were greeted by their father-in-law who also had 3 or 4 daughters, still living at home.

Bulgaria 600 years III.
monotype, paper, 78×62 cm

Old turkish – Shumen drawing
felt-tip pen, paper, 33×24 cm

And we said: „We’re here to get a girl.” The price of two goats was more or less the 1/3 of our honorarium, so we could surely buy the girl. And we bargained for her that day. But oh, the conditions they live in! Wooden house, wooden crockery, wooden cutlery, animals living inside… nonetheless, they were pretty neat and tidy, but their conditions were so lagging behind of today’s, we can’t even comprehend it as we’ve seen such only in museums. They pointed at me and said: “That good sir, that one want’s to buy a girl,” and I, half-serious half-joking, said yes. The bargaining commenced (as it is with the Turkish, if you can’t bargain you can’t be considered a man), and the girl’s price opened at 4 goats, for which I said “that’s way too much.”

The bargaining took at least 3 hours (and included a dinner), and we finally arrived at a 2-goat price. 2 goats and the girl is mine. But we never saw the girl, never seen a woman, we took the dinner with a table of all men, the food was prepared… and he said tomorrow he will show me the ’goods’ and I have to pay. I had a bit of a bad feeling about this and said to our interpreter: „Hey Raskó, mate, this’ll all turn bad pretty swift… this guy is dead serious and that’s trouble!” He agreed and said „Yeah, then we’ll explain!”

We woke up next morning, took a cold water bath in the yard, and suddenly a beautiful young girl runs at me (in some Vietnamese slippers or something), fell to her knees and good grief I washed my feet as she started to kiss them all over. She yelled “good sir, good sir” while our translator told us the little girl is overwhelmed with joy as she finally can get away from here and she can become a painter’s wife and all, just like her sister.

Now i was sure trouble will ensue. Big trouble, or rather a tragedy. I just said „For my great misfortune i cannot take you but i surely pay and I’ll come back for you.” To my words she turned outright hysterical, i never seen such a horrible tantrum. What followed was the screaming and crying in the room which we only heard: a sound a puppy makes when beaten.

Well, that has not gone well, and I told the father I cannot take the girl. I need papers and such, but i pay and will come back for her, and the pater said: „I know you don’t want to take it, but the payment is due! We bargained. Want to take her or not? We shook hands. It’s done!”

That’s the story of how I bought a beautiful girl in Bulgaria for only 2 goats, whom I couldn’t have taken home with me. How would have I told my wife: „Look darling, I bought us a second wife!”

Imre Égerházi

Turkish women in Vitosa ulica
felt-tip pen, paper, 33×24 cm

Turkish man
felt-tip pen, paper, 33×24 cm

Shumen study trip