Kapka Kassabova's "extraordinary" book Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe (Granta) has won the British Academy’s £25,000 Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding 2018.
The international award, tasked with rewarding books that have "contributed to global cultural understanding" and "illuminate the interconnections and divisions that shape cultural identity worldwid", was awarded to the Bulgarian-born writer by Chair of the jury and Foreign Secretary of the British Academy, Professor Ash Amin on Tuesday evening (30th October) at a ceremony held at the British Academy in central London.
Kassabova's winning book explores the border zone between Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece and, weaving individual stories into the wider history of the region, is a close study of how borders shape people’s lives. The judges hailed it "an important contribution to the urgent debate about global cultural understanding" and "an original, compelling narrative which explores the notion of the border, not just as a frontier but as a psychological and cultural dynamic".
Professor Amin said further on behalf of the judges, who this year included historian and political scientist Rana Mitter, social anthropologist Dame Henrietta Moore, writer and broadcaster Professor Patrick Wright and writer Madeleine Bunting: "The book is a description of a meeting place between past and present, peoples, culture and nature, written in a mesmerising style, peopled with vivid characters and full of sharply drawn encounters. Border invests the theme of cultural understanding with a magical quality, mixing observation, biography and lyricism."
Kassabova, now based in the Scottish Highlands, is a writer of poetry, fiction and narrative non-fiction. Her book beat five others on this year’s shortlist: The Islamic Enlightenment: The Modern Struggle Between Faith and Reason by Christopher de Bellaigue (The Bodley Head), Al-Britannia: A Journey Through Muslim Britain by James Fergusson (Bantam Press), Black Tudors: The Untold Story by Miranda Kaufmann, (Oneworld), I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad by Souad Mekhennet, (Virago) and Tears of Rangi: Experiments Across Worlds by Dame Anne Salmond (Auckland University Press).