Border | Granta

  • Published: 01/02/2018
  • ISBN: 9781783783205
  • 129x20mm
  • 400 pages

Border

Kapka Kassabova

Winner of the the British Academy Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding 2018
Winner of the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year 2017
Winner of the 2017 Highland Book Prize
Winner of the Saltire Society Book of the Year 2017
Shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2018
Shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize 2017
Shortlisted for the Duff Cooper Prize 2017
Shortlisted for the Bread and Roses Award 2018
Shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize 2017
Shortlisted for the National Circle of Critics Award 2017

When Kapka Kassabova was a child, the borderzone between Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece was rumoured to be an easier crossing point into the West than the Berlin Wall so it swarmed with soldiers, spies and fugitives. On holidays close to the border on the Black Sea coast, she remembers playing on the beach, only miles from where an electrified fence bristled, its barbs pointing inwards toward the enemy: the holiday-makers, the potential escapees.

Today, this densely forested landscape is no longer heavily militarised, but it is scarred by its past. In Border, Kapka Kassabova sets out on a journey to meet the people of this triple border – Bulgarians, Turks, Greeks, and the latest wave of refugees fleeing conflict further afield. She discovers a region that has been shaped by the successive forces of history: by its own past migration crises, by communism, by two World wars, by the Ottoman Empire, and – older still – by the ancient legacy of myths and legends. As Kapka Kassabova explores this enigmatic region in the company of border guards and treasure hunters, entrepreneurs and botanists, psychic healers and ritual fire-walkers, refugees and smugglers, she traces the physical and psychological borders that criss-cross its villages and mountains, and goes in search of the stories that will unlock its secrets.

Border is a sharply observed portrait of a little-known corner of Europe, and a fascinating meditation on the borderlines that exist between countries, between cultures, between people, and within each of us.

In Kassabova's study these tragic borderlands are brought to life with poetic grace, and her interaction with their inhabitants confers a haunting power on her journey

Colin Thubron

The literature of place is crying out for a talent as magical, brilliant and original as Kapka Kassabova's. She writes with taut intelligence and poetic intensity, a shrewd and grown-up worldliness and a rapt sense of all that isn't in the world, a combination that I've been looking for this entire century. When Border arrived in my life, I felt as if I'd been struck by lightning

Pico Iyer

'Kassabova writes with such energy and style that you feel she could visit the dullest place on earth and make it burst into life. But she has found somewhere extraordinary, full of dazzling human stories played out against a ceaseless round of brutal wars and shifting empires. A brilliant and hugely satisfying book'

Philip Marsden

The Author

KAPKA KASSABOVA is a poet, novelist and writer of narrative non-fiction. She grew up in Sofia, Bulgaria, and now lives in the Scottish Highlands. Her acclaimed memoirs Street Without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria (2008) and Twelve Minutes of Love: A Tango Story (2011) were followed by Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe (2017) which won the British Academy’s Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding, the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year, the Edward Stanford-Dolman Travel Book of the Year, and the inaugural Highlands Book Prize. It was short-listed for the Baillie-Gifford Prize, the Bread and Roses Prize, the Duff Cooper Prize, the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Awards (USA), and the Gordon Burn Prize. Her new book is To the Lake: A Balkan Journey of War and Peace (2020). She has written for the Guardian, Vogue, and 1843 magazine. kapka-kassabova.net

More about the author →

From the Same Author

Kapka Kassabova on Granta.com

Essays & Memoir | Granta 151

The Lake

Kapka Kassabova

‘The chalky mountain separates the lake from its higher, non-identical twin, but only overground. Underground, they are connected. Ohrid and Prespa: two lakes, one ecosystem.’

In Conversation | Granta 151

Edinburgh Book Festival Special | Podcast

Kapka Kassabova & Peter Stamm

In this special Edinburgh Book Festival edition of the Granta Podcast Laura Barber talks to Kapka Kassabova (Street Without a Name, Twelve Minutes of Love) and Peter Stamm (Seven Years) about the often paradoxical relationship between writing and place.

Essays & Memoir | Granta 151

The Magic Place

Kapka Kassabova

‘My arrival in Edinburgh seven years ago was almost a blind date.’