Kapka Kassabova has written a marvellous book about a magical part of the world ... Kassabova’s story starts on the other side of that border, over the hill in Bulgaria, and it is full of restlessness. It shows more starkly than anything else I have read what the border did to the people who lived along it, and how its legacy endures ... Eco-tourism beckons, and Kassabova, a poet, writes lyrically and effectively about the astonishing natural beauty of much of the area. But she spends enough time talking to local people and hearing their stories to give us a real sense of the psychic dramas they carry with them as well ... Border offers the reader a large helping of strange inexplicable occurrences and compelling characters, but its author is engaged in something more personal and more engaging than most of her predecessors.
Her book is a deconstruction of the looming, nonspecific anxiety that comes from continually having to justify your right to exist on one or another side of a line ... Kassabova writes with particular curiosity about the men and women who are or have been complicit in the violence that takes place at borders ... Kassabova’s writing isn’t partisan or prescriptive, but it does raise political questions and gives them a deep emotional resonance. How can anyone be 'from' anywhere in a place where villages have frequently swapped names and populations? What’s it like to be permanently on a side you haven’t chosen? ... Running through her narrative is a vivid sense of the wildness of the place. Kassabova taps into atmospheric tensions; she’s so attuned to the hum of leaves and moss and rocks that if she claimed to have been a witch in a past life, you’d probably believe her. She ends her book with a plea to preserve these forests. Border does occasionally verge on the florid, but it’s also sharp and stuffed with information—it’s hard to imagine a more original and compelling introduction to a virtually unknown region.
With the deft touch of a historian, she connects the voices of those who have struggled to cross borders across the centuries ... Kassabova is a poet, and her writing is beautiful — moving and witty by turns. Her interest in the spirituality of Strandja, the mountainous border region, however, outstrips mine, and she lost me in lengthy passages describing local supernatural phenomena ... She is more convincing when attributing her emotions to the personal sense of displacement that allows her to so keenly empathise with the people torn apart by war, bureaucracy and the stifling borders of 'the edge of Europe.' In a world ever more divided, ever more threatened by Mexican walls, restrictive new passports and fear of the unknown, we need books like this.