Three Chestnut Horses, by Margita Figuli
Remember how I read the classic Bulgarian novel, the one everybody reads in high school? Someone commented that it would be neat to have a list of all the 'classic books everybody reads in high school' for lots of different countries, and I think that would be a fabulous project! I would read that list. I have no idea how to put such a thing together, though, so if anyone has contacts in, say, 50+ countries and wants to help me, let me know! Meanwhile, this is one of the books that every Slovakian kid reads in high school. It's a basic classic of Slovakian literature.
Published in 1940, Three Chestnut Horses was an instant hit. People loved it. It continued as a beloved classic throughout the years of Communist control, though it was edited to take out religious content (and it must have been fairly heavily edited!); the introduction hints that this was done without Figuli's permission.
This is a simple tale on the surface, set in a rural recent past that could have been anytime in the last hundred years--or quite recent. The narrator is Peter, who has always loved Magdalena, his childhood playmate. Orphaned fairly young, he has had to work hard as a traveling horse wrangler, and he hasn't seen her in several years, but he hopes that she loves him and that he can win Magdalena's parents' approval despite his poverty. Instead, when he arrives to court Magdalena, he finds that her greedy mother is about to force her into a marriage with a loutish but wealthy ruffian.
This is a delicate, elegant novella that I really enjoyed. I'd really like to read more of Figuli's works in future, but it doesn't look like much of her work has been translated into English, or that the books that have are very easy to get in the US...