Kapka Kassabova was born in 1973 in Sofia, Bulgaria. She studied at the French Lycée in Sofia. Her family emigrated to New Zealand in 1992, where she studied French and Russian Literature at Otago University (BAHon), and English Literature and Creative Writing at Victoria University of Wellington (MFA). While in New Zealand, she published two poetry collections and the novel Reconnaissance.
In 2005 Kapka moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, and wrote Street Without a Name (Portobello, 2008), a coming-of-age story of the last Communist childhood and an unsentimental journey across modern-day Bulgaria. It was shortlisted for the Prix Européen du Livre and the Stanford-Dolman Travel Book Awards.
The memoir-history Twelve Minutes of Love (Portobello 2011) blends a tale of obsession and the search for home with a history of the Argentine tango. It was shortlisted 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.
She continued publishing poetry: Someone else’s life (Bloodaxe 2003) and Geography for the Lost (Bloodaxe 2007). Her poetry has been widely anthologized in New Zealand and the UK.
Border (Granta) came out in 2017. It is a journey through the triple borderlands of Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece where the easternmost stretch of the Iron Curtain ran. Described by the British Academy Prize jury as ‘being about the essence of place and the essence of encounter’, its narratives weave into a study of how borderlines shape human destiny through time. It won the British Academy’s Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding, the 2017 Saltire Society Book of the Year, the 2017 Edward Stanford Dolman 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.
Kapka’s writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement, The Sunday Times, The Scottish Review of Books, 1843 Magazine, The New Statesman, The NZ Listener, Granta.com, World Literature Today, Tin House, and Vogue.
Kapka Kassabova lives in the Highlands of Scotland.
portrait by TD