Street Without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria

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Overview


Kassabova was born in Sofia, Bulgaria and grew up under the drab, muddy, grey mantle of one of communism’s most mindlessly authoritarian regimes. Escaping with her family as soon as possible after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, she lived in Britain, New Zealand, and Argentina, and several other places. But when Bulgaria was formally inducted to the European Union she decided it was time to return to the home she had spent most of her life trying to escape. What she found was a country languishing under the ...
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Overview


Kassabova was born in Sofia, Bulgaria and grew up under the drab, muddy, grey mantle of one of communism’s most mindlessly authoritarian regimes. Escaping with her family as soon as possible after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, she lived in Britain, New Zealand, and Argentina, and several other places. But when Bulgaria was formally inducted to the European Union she decided it was time to return to the home she had spent most of her life trying to escape. What she found was a country languishing under the strain of transition. This two-part memoir of Kapka’s childhood and return explains life on the other side of the Iron Curtain.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A well-wrought memoir about growing up in Bulgaria during the dreary Communist years.... As both an insider and outsider, the author is able to assess her complex country with a simultaneously fond and critical gaze. Delves deeply into memory, history and imagination. (Kirkus Reviews)”
Publishers Weekly
Novelist, poet and travel writer Kassabova takes a meandering, bittersweet journey through her native Bulgaria, where she grew up in the last decade and a half of the Cold War. Her chilling, panoramic view of life under Communism is perhaps best caught in her memory of the "rumored disaster at Chernobyl," vehemently denied by the Bulgarian government; just as nuclear rain began t fall, the citizens were forced into the streets for a mandatory May Day celebration that left many to fall sick and die within the year. Kassabova's personal history, like her country's, is full of complex characters and overwhelming challenges; one of her grandfathers, she realized later, was a homosexual struggling in a country that forbade it, and Kassabova herself developed teenage anorexia: "If you can't do anything to the world around you, you do it to yourself." Written following her return visit as a 34-year-old "global soul," Kassabova finds the country she left at 17 still devastated, but with a new measure of hope. Kassabova's tendency to travel two or three decades in a single paragraph can make her a challenge to follow, and she too often gets lost in day-to-day minutia; though engaging and illuminating as is, a more rigorous edit could have made this memoir a page turner.
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Library Journal

Bulgaria is an alien land to most of us-we might visit it someday, but we wouldn't want to live there. In the 1970s and 1980s when poet Kassabova was growing up, Bulgaria was grimly Communist. Her delightful and insightful book is an elegiac paean to a country she couldn't wait to leave but now can't get out of her head. The wonder is that individuality survived at all during those stifling years of government-enforced mediocrity, but it did, as is abundantly clear in Kassabova's vivid descriptions of family, friends, and teachers. Years later, she went back for a visit. Much had changed, but more had not. Manufactured goods were still scarce or nonexistent; service was given begrudgingly or not at all. Old towns had been bulldozed to erect shoddy townhouses, and the Bulgarians still hated the Turks. Kassabova's readers will learn much about a country they generally don't even think about, sometimes laughing out loud and sometimes simply stopping to reflect. In fact, it's hard to imagine anyone who wouldn't benefit from this lovely book.
—David Keymer

Kirkus Reviews
A well-wrought memoir about growing up in Bulgaria during the dreary Communist years. Nestled between Romania, Turkey and Macedonia on the Black Sea, Bulgaria is a country that Westerners know little about, likely due to its long closure from the Western world and the Slavic language barrier. Kassabova (The Best of Delhi, 2008, etc.), who spent expat years in New Zealand and Scotland, opens this history-rich country to readers. The author was raised in Sofia with her parents, both intellectuals, and younger sister in a "two-room flat in an eight-floor concrete building surrounded by thousands of identical concrete buildings, purposeful and sturdy like nuclear plants in freshly bulldozed fields of mud." Their building was called "Youth 3" (after Youth 1 and 2), and as a child Kassabova suspected that something was wrong with their meager, joyless world: " ‘Mum, why is everything so ugly?' To which my mother couldn't find an honest answer, except to hide her tears." At one point, the author suffered from a mysterious auto-immune disease probably resulting from the Chernobyl fallout. Some of her father's colleagues from Holland, arriving in an extravagant van wearing bright, pastel clothing and eating unimaginable treats, reinforced the family's shame and the sense that they were not equal. Education offered only "an inhabitable space in the uninhabitable Youths" and "the possibility to emigrate ‘internally.' " After the collapse of the Berlin Wall, when the author was 16, she and her parents were finally allowed to emigrate. Kassabova's work encompasses both her early years and her return trips to Sofia and other areas of Bulgaria, during which she visited relatives, trekked the Balkanmountains and explored Balkan history and ancient myths (Orpheus was born in the Rhodope mountains). As both an insider and outsider, the author is able to assess her complex country with a simultaneously fond and critical gaze. Delves deeply into memory, history and imagination. Agent: Isobel Dixon/Blake Friedmann
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781602396456
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
  • Publication date: 8/1/2009
  • Pages: 348
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 1.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Kapka Kassabova was born in Bulgaria in 1973 and learned to speak English at the age of sixteen when her parents emigrated to New Zealand. She spent time in Buenos Aires, Marseille and Berlin, before settling in Edinburgh, Scotland. She is the author of two novels, four poetry collections, and a couple of travel guides.
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