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Someone Else's Life


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About the Author

Kapka Kassabova is a cross-genre writer with a special interest in deep journeying, exploring human geographies, and the hidden narratives of places, people, and peripheries. She has published two poetry collections with Bloodaxe, Someone else's life (2003) and Geography for the Lost (2007). Born in 1973 in Sofia, Bulgaria, to scientist parents, she studied at the French Lycee 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, All roads lead to the sea and Dismemberment (Auckland University Press), and two novels, Reconnaissance and Love in the Land of Midas (Penguin NZ). In 2005 Kapka moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, and wrote Street Without a Name (Granta, 2008), a coming-of-age story in the twilight years of totalitarian Communism and an unsentimental journey across modern-day Bulgaria. It was shortlisted for the Prix Europeen du Livre and the Stanford-Dolman Travel Book Awards. Her memoir-history, Twelve Minutes of Love (Granta, 2011), blends a tale of obsession and migration with a history of the Argentine tango, and was shortlisted for the Scottish Mortgage Investment Book Awards. Villa Pacifica (Alma Books 2011), a novel with an Ecuadorian setting, came out at the same time. Border: a journey to the edge of Europe (Granta/Graywolf) came out in 2017. It is a solo journey through the remote 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 human encounter', its narratives weave into a panoramic study of how borderlines shape human destiny through time. Border won the British Academy's Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding, the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year, the Edward Stanford-Dolman Travel 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 Kassabova lives in the Highlands of Scotland. She is a juror for The Neustadt Prize (2019-2020), and was on the judging panel for The International Dublin Book Award (2017). Her next book is To The Lake: a Balkan journey of war and peace (Granta/ Graywolf 2020).


In the suitcase that she has mentally lived out of since she was a little girl, Kapka Kassabova has brought the turbulent memories of 20th century European history with her to New Zealand, where she recollects bad dreams in comparative tranquillity, and always with the phrasing of a born musician. If her finely pitched lyricism is the first thing that strikes you, the second is the richness of sympathy that lies behind it. As if she owed her gifts and blessings to them, she speaks for the generations before her whose lives were ruined. The result is a truly international picture of what it means to be young and sensitive in the modern world. In a short life, she has already established a unique literary identity. -- Clive James
Someone else's life tells with supreme clarity and fearless candor what it means to be adrift in the last years of the 20th century and the first of the 21st; it is a book of perpetual exile, of endless comings and goings, in a world that offers neither stability, nor salvation. Still, the very intelligence of this book - skeptical, riveting, passionate - suggests that there may be an answer to the uncertainty that is everywhere around us. -- Mark Strand
This much-travelled volume is always, even in several striking love poems, a record of alienation from the "valley strewn with garbage and roses" of her homeland. This doubled sensibility is at once new and accomplished, direct and complex. -- Fiona Sampson * Poetry Review *

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