Books - Read and Enjoyed

Border - A journey to the edge of Europe

Granta (2017)

by Kapka Kassabova

The subject of this book is the border region that separates Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey, and the effect it has, or has had, on people living there, or comming from far away. During the cold war, it was a beacon of hope for people all over the east block, including many young people from the German Democratic Republic. The border separated the east-block from the NATO countries Turkey and Greece. Some of those that tried to cross can still tell their story but many can’t. However, the people along the border remember the watch posts and fences, that were in part operated by the very people from this region. Today, hope pulls people in the other direction.

But these turmoils and changes are not new to the region, which was influenced by the Greek, Roman and Ottoman empires. Throughout the times, forced resettlement and ethnic, religous and political conflicts have scattered people throughout the regions. And, as a corridor linking Europe and the middle east, it has also always been a place through which people have always travelled.

As a Bulgarian that moved with her parents to New Zealand and now lives in Scotland, Kapka Kassabova convincingly conveys her connection to the place and her understanding for displacement, and borders. She takes her time to discover the places and tells us the story of their people. At times, the book turns too much to the “magical” elements of the region, which is emphasized by an abstract and poetic language. At other points the poetic language feels very appropriate and succeeds with capturing the essence of a border, together with its tragedies and consequences for the people along it.

(SJ June 2020)