Kapka Kassabova

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Kapka Kassabova (born 1973, in Bulgarian Капка Касабова) is a poet and writer of travel, history, and fiction who grew up in Sofia, Bulgaria.[1] After leaving Bulgaria with her family as a teenager, she lived and studied in New Zealand for a number of years before moving to Scotland.[2]

Her debut poetry collection All roads lead to the sea won a NZ Montana Book Award and her debut novel Reconnaissance won a Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Asia Pacific. In 2008, Kassabova published the memoir Street Without a Name which was shortlisted for the Dolmann Club Travel Book Award and which Misha Glenny in The Guardian called a "profound meditation on the depth of change triggered by the events of 1989 throughout eastern Europe".[3] Scotland on Sunday described it as ‘A memorable piece of acutely observed writing where events are relayed with a novelist’s eye. With its sharply humorous details of close family life and the evocative and sometimes almost spiritual portrayal of an era lost and a country changed forever, this book recalls the writings of Isabel Allende.’[4]

In 2011, she published the tango biography Twelve Minutes of Love, shortlisted for the Scottish Book Awards and hailed by The Independent as "an exquisitely crafted blend of travelogue, memoir, dance history, and some seriously good writing on the human condition." [1][5] The Scotsman said: 'Kassabova is that rare thing, an author who excels in every genre.'[6] and the New Zealand Listener wrote that ‘Kassabova’s poetry explores exile, disconnection and loss; her novels and travel writing are rich in insight, conjuring unsettling worlds. She brings these elements together in this exhilarating account of tango’s addictive character. With a neat twist, she ultimately exposes its illusions, locating its place in a journey that is both personal and universal.’[7]

In 2017, her work of narrative non-fiction Border: a journey to the edge of Europe was published in the UK. A "brave and moving study of the tragic borderland between Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey",[8] it has been described in the Sunday Times as "an exceptional travel book about Bulgaria's dark, often magical borderlands...Not an easy book. But it is aromatic, lyrical, disturbing - and very very fine." [9] by Peter Pomerantsev as "a book about borders that makes the reader feel sumptuously free, an effect achieved by the way she moves between literary borders so gracefully: travelogue and existential drama; political history and poetry'. Mark Mazower described it in The Guardian as "a marvellous book about a magical part of the world",[10] "mystery... is at the heart of the book; the mystery of marginal points and marginal people" [11] The Economist described it as "witty, poignant, and erudite", "brings hidden history vividly to light".[12] The New Statesman greeted is as "a timely, powerful story of immigration, friendship and travel", "an exceptional book, a tale of travelling and listening closely, and it brings something altogether new to the mounting literature on the story of modern migration." [13] Comparisons with the writing of Patrick Leigh Fermor have been made by several critics.


  • All Roads Lead to the Sea, Auckland University Press 1997
  • Reconnaissance, Penguin NZ 1999
  • Someone Else's Life, Bloodaxe 2003
  • Marti Friedlander by Leonard Bell, Introduction, AUP 2009
  • Geography for the Lost, Bloodaxe 2007
  • Street Without a Name, Portobello 2008
  • Villa Pacifica, Penguin NZ/ Alma Books 2011
  • Twelve Minutes of Love: a tango story, Portobello 2011
  • Border: a journey to the edge of Europe, Granta 2017/ Greywolf 2017


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