Kapka Kassabova

One of Elif Shafak’s selected writers for the International Literature Showcase


“Unflinching, eloquent, Kapka Kassabova looks inside the human soul, excavates the deepest truth and tells us about it in all its tragic, mysterious beauty.”

Elif Shafak

Writer of deep journeys, explorer of human geographies, connecting worlds

Kapka Kassabova is poet, novelist, and author of three narrative non-fiction books: Street Without a Name (2008), Twelve Minutes of Love (2011) and Border (2017) which won the British Academy Al-Rodhan Prize, Saltire Book of the Year, Stanford-Dolman Book of the Year, the Highland Book Prize, the Nicholas Bouvier Prize and was shortlisted for the European Book Prize and the Angelus Award. She has written for the GuardianEconomist, and others. Kapka grew up in Sofia and as a young adult emigrated to New Zealand where she studied French and Russian Literature and published her first books. Since 2005 she has lived in Scotland. Her native Balkans are the location for Border and To The Lake (2020), which was shortlisted for the Highland Book Prize.

‘Border is about the interpretive power of metaphor, how the densely forested landscape of memory and storytelling roots us, even in the places from which we have been uprooted… Border reminds us that we may all find ourselves facing the point ‘between opportunity and catastrophe’, as we feel the world shift beneath our feet.’ Sarah Churchwell, Baillie-Gifford judge

‘This is 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… The strength of Kassabova’s book lies in the skill with which she interweaves the narrative of [today’s refugees] into that of the inhabitants of the borderlands.’ Caroline Moorhead, New Statesman

‘A marvellous book about a magical part of the world… It shows more starkly than anything else I have read what the border did to the people who live along it, and how its legacy endures… Kassabova, a poet, writes lyrically and effectively about the astonishing natural beauty of much of the area… as [she] arcs across countries and centuries in an effort to free herself from the enchantment of this strangest of regions. In the end she leaves, but the spell remains.’ Mark Mazower, The Guardian

‘Kapka Kassabova’s poignant, erudite and witty third book brings hidden history vividly to light… She treads lightly but distinctly through the stories she tells, displaying an enviable mixture of rapport with her subjects and detachment from their peculiarities… ‘ The Economist

‘Kapka Kassabova is a modern Scheherazade – a dazzling writer who tells stories as if her life depended on it…. as this wonderful book goes on, a kind of deep background music begins to be heard: themes and images which recur and weave all the voices into a pattern.’ Neal Ascherson, Scottish Review of Books

It is a stellar and exciting virtual community, and I’m delighted to be part of it.



  • All Roads Lead to the Sea, Auckland University Press 1997 (poetry)
  • Dismemberment, AUP 1998 (poetry)
  • Reconnaissance, Penguin NZ 1999 (novel)
  • Someone Else’s Life, Bloodaxe 2003 (poetry)
  • Marti Friedlander by Leonard Bell, Introduction, AUP 2009 (biography)
  • Geography for the Lost, Bloodaxe 2007 (poetry)
  • Street Without a Name, Granta 2008 (travel/ memoir)
  • Villa Pacifica, Penguin NZ/ Alma Books 2011(novel)
  • Twelve Minutes of Love: a tango story, Granta 2011 (music/memoir)
  • Border: a journey to the edge of Europe, Granta 2017/ Greywolf 2017 (history/ travel/memoir)
  • To The Lake: a journey of war and peace, Granta 2020/ Greywolf 2020 (history/travel/biography)
  • Elixir will be published in 2022 by Cape.

Contact Kapka


Website: kapka-kassabova.net

Twitter: @kapka_kassabova


Sarah Chalfant, Wylie Agency/ email


Granta (UK), Lamorna Elmer


Image credit TD