Kapka Kassabova was born and raised in Bulgaria in the 1970s and 1980s, and educated at the French College in Sofia. Her family emigrated to New Zealand just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and she spent her late teens and twenties in New Zealand where she published two poetry collections and the Commonwealth-Writers Prize-winner for debut fiction in Asia-Pacific, Reconnaissance. Her travel essays on Berlin and Delhi were awarded the NZ Cathay Pacific Travel Writer of the Year disctinction.
In 2004, Kapka moved to Scotland and published Street Without a Name (Portobello, 2008). It is a story of the last Communist childhood and an unsentimental journey across post-communist Bulgaria, and was short-listed for the Prix Européen du Livre and the Dolman Travel Book Award.
The music memoir Twelve Minutes of Love (Portobello 2011), a tale of Argentine tango, obsession and the search for home, was short-listed for the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Awards.
Villa Pacifica (Alma Books 2011), a novel with an equatorial setting, came out at the same time.
Her essays and articles have appeared in The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement, Vogue, The Sunday Times, The Scottish Review of Books, The NZ Listener, Granta.com, and BBC Radio 4 and Radio 3.
Her UK poetry collections are Someone else's life (Bloodaxe 2003) and Geography for the Lost (Bloodaxe 2007) and her poetry has been widely anthologised in New Zealand and the UK.
Border: a journey to the edge of Europe, is out in 2017. When Kapka Kassabova was a child, the border zone 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 electri ed fence bristled, its barbs pointing inwards towards 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 re-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.
Kapka Kassabova lives in the Scottish Highlands.