[Reading] ➰ Street Without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria ➸ Kapka Kassabova – Writerscompany.co.uk

Street Without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria An articulate, bright author returns to her native country to bash all things Bulgarian Sometimes insightful and interesting, other times times navel gazing and tiresome, Kapka spoons up a combination of history, travelogue, and Iron Curtain memoir with some questionable exaggeration and pretentious zingers Relevant to those who have lived in Bulgaria or have some connection to or special interest in the country. 1.5 Unfortunately this wasn t for me I found parts here in and there that fascinated me and I m so interested in learning and knowing about Bulgaria and it s history but this had a lot of excessive details that pushed me from enjoying what was being shared It felt to me that it dragged on and there seemed to be a lot of tangents that I don t feel were necessarily important for us the readers to know but maybe it was important for her to tell Around the world pick for Bulgaria. 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 Street Without A Name by Kapka Kassabova A must read for anyone interested in Bulgaria, Street Without A Name tracks the emotional and physical journies experienced by the author as she revisits the land of her birth soon after its entry to the European Union Glimpses into her childhood and teens years under communist rule are written with passion but never sentimentality against a backdrop of cuttingly outlined history We see both the big picture and the small one a forced exodus described Street Without A Name by Kapka Kassabova A must read for anyone interested in Bulgaria, Street Without A Name tracks the emotional and physical journies experienced by the author as she revisits the land of her birth soon after its entry to the European Union Glimpses into her childhood and teens years under communist rule are written with passion but never sentimentality against a backdrop of cuttingly outlined history We see both the big picture and the small one a forced exodus described by the government as a holiday at the time detailed visits to loved grandparents repeated at intervals until death intervenes For me, the book has a particular fascination as some of the descriptions of how people lived back then , could almost have been written today Communism ended in 1989 Bulgaria entered the EU in 2007 but in some respects, only the storefront has changed Kapka Kassabova s Street Without A Name is a roller coaster of a read, a true tour de force and a history lesson all in one Street Without a Name is a pure memoir book.The first half of it reads easily, not to say that you flow through the pages It is an interesting sneak in how a young, also obviously quite switch on, person felt about the surrounding environment in the 1980 90s, on the threshold of the collapse of the communist regime.The second part of the book is another story, though not to say that it s nowhere near my literary taste Party the reason might be because I am Bulgarian and have basic knowledge o Street Without a Name is a pure memoir book.The first half of it reads easily, not to say that you flow through the pages It is an interesting sneak in how a young, also obviously quite switch on, person felt about the surrounding environment in the 1980 90s, on the threshold of the collapse of the communist regime.The second part of the book is another story, though not to say that it s nowhere near my literary taste Party the reason might be because I am Bulgarian and have basic knowledge of our history, which is the main topic in this second half.Unfortunately, I didn t see an in depth interpretation of the present through the prism of the past, which seems to have been the author s initial idea To me the reason for this failure is Kassabova s inclination to criticize everything Bulgarian This, on its side, created the unpleasant feeling of an outsider who used to be part of that same environment and just because is not any, looks at it with an eye of superiority We all have seen enough of this already The Balkan sulkiness, which every now and then the author points out as a main reason for Bulgaria s misfortunes not that she is wrong is deeply incarnated in her writing style This felt unfair The best part of this book was the fact that the author grew up in the neighborhood I live in, so I recognized many of the streets and local landmarks she references hey, there s a photo of our McDonald s Other than this novelty factor, though, this book really paled in comparison to other Bulgarian books I ve read and international coming of age stories in general Persepolis comes to mind as a similar story but is far better , not only in quality of writing but also, ironically, in givin The best part of this book was the fact that the author grew up in the neighborhood I live in, so I recognized many of the streets and local landmarks she references hey, there s a photo of our McDonald s Other than this novelty factor, though, this book really paled in comparison to other Bulgarian books I ve read and international coming of age stories in general Persepolis comes to mind as a similar story but is far better , not only in quality of writing but also, ironically, in giving a compelling portrayal of Bulgaria and the Balkan region The frequent and direct comparisons to Orwell s 1984 were heavy handed and sounded trite and adolescent my Bulgarian 10th graders who just finished reading 1984 could pick apart some of the flawed parallels in a heartbeat , reducing this complex country and people into a kind of archetype, and while I did like some of the stories surrounding Kassabova s education in the French lycee in Sofia and the subsequent lack of a sense of place for herself and her classmates, the contemporary parts of the book with the author road tripping around Bulgaria were fragmented, hard to follow, and frankly seemed exploitative as did much of the book overall I don t know much about the author, but I very much got a sense of, I know how I will break out as a writer I will Write a Book about my Obscure Country and it will be my Literary Niche and thus the road trip felt like a means to that end rather than a sincere and organic reflection on her country of birth Also, the book needs a way better editor proofreader i.e., someone who can get the spelling of Libya correct on a consistent basis Memoir, history book, travelogue this book is written with clarity, honesty, sentiment not sentimentality , and humor It s beautifully written The family stories are touching The history portions scratch the surface of huge gaps in my knowledge And the sections devoted to Kassabova s country of Bulgaria had me googling images of almost every place she mentions In fact it would be nice if there were a map in this book for easy reference Between Hotel Drustur and the Golden Dobrudzha, I hav Memoir, history book, travelogue this book is written with clarity, honesty, sentiment not sentimentality , and humor It s beautifully written The family stories are touching The history portions scratch the surface of huge gaps in my knowledge And the sections devoted to Kassabova s country of Bulgaria had me googling images of almost every place she mentions In fact it would be nice if there were a map in this book for easy reference Between Hotel Drustur and the Golden Dobrudzha, I have walked exactly five minutes and twenty five years.And let s face it since arriving a few weeks ago, I haven t been myself A few weeks alone in the country of your childhood wreaks havoc on your imported adult personality p 302 3 I am going now, and I know never to disturb the natural laws of that country where the people we used to be stroll along the fault lines of a white cliffed town, eating vanilla ice cream in the slightly otherworldly September light p 296 1979 was also the year after the assassination by State Security of the dissident writer Georgi Markov in London with a poison tipped umbrella Bulgaria s main claim to fame in the last century, if we don t count weightlifters with hairy backs But that year I was preoccupied by a farmomentous event the kindergarten summer camp p 24 beautiful, moving, with subtle irony, intelligent book. I d give this book 3 1 2 stars Street With No Name is a very interesting and very personal memoir of Kapka Kassabova s childhood in Bulgaria, and a travelogue chronicling several return trips to visit relatives and discuss the sights The author appears to have also written a travel guidebook, probably during those same trips, and this book readslike a diary of those trips The first part mostly describes her growing up in Sofia, discussing her life in school, various activities such as I d give this book 3 1 2 stars Street With No Name is a very interesting and very personal memoir of Kapka Kassabova s childhood in Bulgaria, and a travelogue chronicling several return trips to visit relatives and discuss the sights The author appears to have also written a travel guidebook, probably during those same trips, and this book readslike a diary of those trips The first part mostly describes her growing up in Sofia, discussing her life in school, various activities such as the Pioneer groups somewhat similar to the Boy Girl Scouts , and contrasting the deprivations of life in socialist Bulgaria with the luxuries of the West brought into sober focus by her parents trips to the Netherlands and a visit by some Dutch colleagues She also discusses her coming of age, getting into a French language high school, and her family s eventual exodus to New Zealand.The second half of the book chronicles her trips throughout Bulgaria the chronology is sometimes a bit unclear, since there are at least three trips interwoven, some to different regions of Bulgaria, and with multiple visits to her aging relatives She covers most of the major regions of Bulgaria, and her anecdotes include very vivid, slice of life interactions with local people, highlighting their conditions, attitudes, and sometimes prejudices While a bit non linear, I felt this part actually captured quite well the odd mixture of nostalgia and disorientation that one gets when revisiting a place that is full of memories from several trips but that has changed dramatically each time.Kapka does manage to work in a great many of the large and small cultural highlights of Bulgaria She discusses most of the major regions, has some discussion of food, works in many significant historical events of Bulgaria e.g., the 500 years under the Turks, saving its Jews from the Nazis during World War II, the forcible renaming of Turks in the mid 80s as well as many cultural details the wedding music of Ivo Papasov, pop folk chalga silicone divas, the fear that air currents will make you sick I don t think she managed to work in the one about how women shouldn t sit on concrete because of the fear that their ovaries will freeze, however The descriptions of the horrors of public toilets was particularly graphic, and not at all exaggerated Similarly, the descriptions of maniacal taxi driver speeding and perilous potholes is spot on I personally have flown down Tsarigradsko Shousse in a taxi at over 100 MPH and feared for my life similarly.My reaction to this book is that it struck me as very Bulgarian, in several senses that I shall attempt to explain It is fairly typical for Bulgarians to exaggerate a certain amount when describing a situation if something happened twice, they will usually say it happened four times if six times, they will often say 100 Recipients of such statements tend to take this into account when interpreting the statements Thus, when I retold several of the anecdotes to a Bulgarian who grew up around the same time in the same places, they were met with some skepticism e.g., she thought that Kapka s father being unable to find a store to buy potatoes in the summer in Bansko waslikely due to his unfamiliarity with the town , and she found the story of Kapka s mother being overcome by the luxury of a Dutch bathroom similarly difficult to swallow The author spends a rather significant part of the time on the cultural injustice of the ethnic minorities being forced to change their names to Bulgarian ones in order to assimilate them, though she focuses a lot on the Turks, and I think rather less so on the Roma Gypsies , who suffer at least as much discrimination in Bulgaria and worse conditions Ethnic identity is a farprominent and complex part of Balkan society than in modern America, in my opinion For instance, as a Chinese American watching the Olympics in Bulgaria once, I was assumed to be rooting for the Chinese team Also, perhaps anomalously, one of the most patriotic Bulgarians I know is a Bulgarian Turk whom I believe was alive during the time of the renaming.The one thing that I found rather hard to stomach about this book was the relentless undercurrent of pretentious self loathing the author takes significant pains to highlight the deprivations of the past and the grim aspects of the present For instance, she spends a fair amount of time depicting Englishmen and the like as slavering, leering, greedy exploiters, ready to pounce on cheap Bulgarian properties or, sometimes, her This is also very Bulgarian, in the sense of perceiving themselves as being at the mercy of the Great Powers It would be naive and rosy not to acknowledge the fact that the country is wracked with corruption, gangsters mutri , and so forth, but she likes to take certain facts and spin them into a narrative of backwardness For instance, she begins with an anecdote about landing at the worst named airport in the world, Airpost Vrazhdebna Hostile and juxtaposing this discussion with a description of some Germans who represent the modern, progressive West that Bulgaria strives to emulate But there is a reasonable explanation, which is that it was built in the village of Vrazhdebna on the outskirts of Sofia apparently that name comes from when that village was inherited by Bogomil heretics Further, it seems to me like a rather appropriate name from a superstitious point of view an airport is a place that is perceived to be fraught with danger and risk and, having flown in a Balkan Air Tupolev TU 154 out of that airport once, I can fully understand why So, it seems appropriate that to ward off the threat of evil spirits and happenings, the airport has a powerful, warding name In any case, I found this book overall very interesting and informative She makes a disclaimer up front that everything is true, as she remembers it, but explicitly disclaims any pretense of objectivity Once, when a Bulgarian I know was dismissing the news reports we were watching about goings on in the former Yugoslavia as all lies , I tried to ask how one can ever know what the truth is if all the news you ever get is lies.she explained that her way which I gathered was a common conceptualization of truth in the Balkans was to listen to it all and then look in your heart to figure out what the truth really is I feel that I should view the narrative presented in this book as having been filtered through this conceptualization of truth The material in this book is a very valuable source but I think it needs to be read and understood in context with other sources and experiences to gain a fuller picture of the history and culture of Bulgaria If Ireland has Frank McCourt s Angela s Ashes, Bulgaria has this by Ms Kapka Kassabova She was born in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1973 and grew up amidst the hardships of a communist country controlled by a totalitarian regime At the age of 16 her family managed to emigrate to New Zealand She did sometravelling before finally settling in Edinburgh, Scotland Written with exceptional poignancy and wry humor, You ll learnabout Bulgaria reading this than actually going there and looking a If Ireland has Frank McCourt s Angela s Ashes, Bulgaria has this by Ms Kapka Kassabova She was born in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1973 and grew up amidst the hardships of a communist country controlled by a totalitarian regime At the age of 16 her family managed to emigrate to New Zealand She did sometravelling before finally settling in Edinburgh, Scotland Written with exceptional poignancy and wry humor, You ll learnabout Bulgaria reading this than actually going there and looking around

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