Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe by Kapka Kassabova will feature on the Radio 2 Fact not Fiction Book Club on Thursday 2 February.
The book was selected with the help of a panel made up of Reading Agency and library staff from across the UK. Find out more about the non-fiction strand of the Radio 2 Book Club, Fact Not Fiction.
You can win 10 copies of Border for your reading group – just visit our Noticeboard.
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We also have an exclusive discussion guide for your reading group.
Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe
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 electrified fence bristled, its barbs pointing inwards toward 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.
Kassabova sets out on a journey through a hidden corner of the continent, and meets the people of this triple border – Bulgarians, Turks, Greeks, indigenous Balkan Muslims, 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 Nazi occupation, by the Ottoman Empire, and – older still – by the ancient legacy of myths and legends. But there seem to be non-human forces at work here too: it is a land rich with curative springs and Thracian tombs; home to psychic healers and Europe’s last fire-worshippers.
As Kassabova explores this enigmatic region in the company of border guards and treasure hunters, entrepreneurs and botanists, 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.
Selection panel review
Our library reading panel really enjoyed Border – here are some of their comments:
“This was written in an easy and engaging style and had lots of human interest. The mix of personal recollection with those of strangers gave depth to the book.”
“The tales are a fascinating mixture of myths, legends and poignant stories of personal suffering and loss. The people range from the wacky to the seriously chilling.”
“It is a plea for understanding and tolerance for everyone – including the Syrian refugees who are now pouring into this area – for it is mere historical chance that has placed our current borders where they are today. As such this book opens up important and topical discussions about moral responsibility, and Britain’s position within Europe.”
About the author
Kapka Kassabova was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, and now lives in the Scottish Highlands. She is the author of several poetry collections, numerous travel essays, the novel Villa Pacifica (2011), and the acclaimed memoirs Street Without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria (2008) and Twelve Minutes of Love: A Tango Story (2011). She has written for the Sunday Times, the Guardian, Vogue, and 1843 magazine.
Tune in to the Radio 2 Arts Show on Thursday 2 February to hear an interview with Kapka Kassabova talking about her book.