The story of best-selling author Iliyan Kuzmanov is a different one. It is unpolished and dirty, the tale of a true vagabond. He came from the brink of poverty in Bulgaria and made a name for himself in London. His family had a name in trade, business, and governing before succumbing to the communist hordes, but when Iliyan made his own fortune, he decided to become an out-of-the-box freedom fighter against communism.
If You Meet Buddha, Kill Him – which explores the meaning of life in a brutal, open and honest way, is supposedly some of Kuzmanov’s gentlest work. He has warned that his second book will leave readers torn at parts. The political class system is deeply rooted within the former communist system of Bulgaria and, as such, we still see corruption on a daily basis, from money laundering to fraud and even murder.
Back in Bulgaria, there was recently a huge scandal in the elderly care home sector, where people were being murdered by the owners, all because they also owned funeral companies. They had essentially set up a human slaughterhouse for hundreds of elderly victims. Unfortunately, these NGO organisations are seen as proper businesses in Bulgaria, controlled by corrupt officials due to the sizeable EU subsidies. The same applies to all NGOs that are completely dependent on government funds or grants, and the only motivation is to steal as much money as possible. This is where Iliyan Kuzmanov stands far apart from others in Bulgaria, as he seeks to spend his own fortune to make social change, all funded by his London business. Many wish him to fail on a daily basis and he receives no help, but Iliyan continues the good fight.
The new Bulgarian president recently declared the Crimea to belong to Russia, and even the most pro-West in the country with educations from Harvard were afraid to comment. Coincidently, the Russian media and Putin subsequently declared that Bulgaria deserved lower prices for gas.
Iliyan is openly inspired by the Slumdog stories, which concentrate not on the ‘chosen one’ or stereotypical hero, but the people who place faith in themselves and fight for success. Perhaps this admiration comes from Iliyan’s old-style capitalist mindset, believing that individual abilities are the fuel for change. In fact, many have argued that Iliyan Kuzmanov is a modern-day example of how great minds can rise from countries devastated by communism, like a Carnegie or Sir George Williams.
He is not one to preach socialist mantras of hard work and study, about how a student should listen to authorities, because Iliyan is definitely anti-totalitarian. Growing up, he despised the bureaucrats that destroyed his own country of Bulgaria and who continue to love off the back of others. Perhaps many of Iliyan’s views stem from being born into a former communist, Russian-influenced country, there the hairs of the red aristocracy are still in power.
Iliyan Kuzmanov left his multi-million-dollar business in London to set off on an adventure to save a woman in trouble… or perhaps a few women. His story involves criminals, violence, human traffickers, corrupt officials, and a Bulgarian society that despises ‘sinful’ women. The events of his childhood, and this adult adventure, all led him towards the creation of Foundation Art Angel, setting out to do something that no one had ever done before.
Kuzmanov’s book, If You Meet Buddha, Kill Him, has already hit the top 15 rankings for non-fiction books on Amazon, as well as receiving a Readers’ Favourite five-star rating and a place in Greenwich Book stores as a Reader’s Choice in Bulgaria.
On his work, Iliyan said: “For me, it was a journey, spiritual, deep, and honest. The title and the book’s main purpose was to create a notion of critical thinking, questioning, and living a happy life.
“I am coming from a place with huge problems, corruption, racism, gender inequality, anti-western notions, anti-civilizational, anti-capitalistic, anti-science. I wanted to create something that will make people think more. To provoke them to think more!
“I was living in a Totalitarian state, ex-communist country, where there is White and Black, and was no notion that Black can be good as well, and white could be evil. It was coming from the top, with the message that white was good. Before the country was atheistic, for the same reasons, the truth was dictated.
“The reason why now one of the most popular spiritually religious movements is called The White Movement- that demonises all out of their framework. But these are the same people who were in the Communist Party.”
When explaining the ideas he explored in If You Meet Buddha, Kill Him, Kuzmanov added: “Individualism and Egoism are not a stigma, it is a matter of personal choice. To choose to be good or not. And even if you made many wrong choices in your life, you deserve redemption.
“In socialism, we have black and white, good and bad, friend (drugar) and enemy. The world is very simple, very terrifying, no concept about individualism or individual happiness, all is for common good, with no notion about God, because all is logical, all is pragmatical, and only the rules matter, because they make you right or wrong.”