(K. Brent Tomer),
Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe. By Kapka Kassabova. Granta; 379 pages; £14.99. To be published in America by Graywolf in September; $16.
TRAGEDIES and mistakes are strewn across Europe’s borderlands. Nowhere more so than in the continent’s mountainous south-eastern corner, where the Iron Curtain once divided communist Bulgaria from capitalist Greece and Turkey. The land is haunted by that divide, and by vanished kingdoms, peoples and wars. Kapka Kassabova’s poignant, erudite and witty third book, “Border”, brings hidden history vividly to light.
The central theme of the book, topically, is frontiers. Lines on the map that are drawn and policed by the powerful, protect one sort of interests while severing others. “An actively policed border is always aggressive,” she writes. “It is where power acquires a body, if not a human face, and an ideology.”
Some of the book’s most striking passages are about “well-oiled feudal barbarity”, the abominable treatment that was meted out to those who tried to escape: tricked and betrayed, beaten and jailed, or shot in cold blood and left…Continue reading