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Street Without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria
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Street Without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  200 ratings  ·  40 reviews
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 dec...more
Hardcover, 337 pages
Published 2008 by Portobello Books
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Life Can Be a Miracle by Ivinela SamuilovaEast of the West by Miroslav Penkov18% Gray by Zachary KarabashlievStreet Without a Name by Kapka KassabovaWunderkind by Nikolai Grozni
Contemporary Bulgarian Fiction in English
4th out of 12 books — 12 voters
Street Without a Name by Kapka KassabovaCold Snap by Cynthia Morrison PhoelThe Fragility of Goodness by Tzvetan TodorovArms and the Man by George Bernard ShawSaving of the Jews in Bulgaria by Albert Cohen
About Bulgaria
1st out of 15 books — 2 voters

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Community Reviews

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Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
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 some more travelling before finally settling in Edinburgh, Scotland. Written with exceptional poignancy and wry humor, You'll learn more about Bulgaria reading this than actually going there and looking a...more
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...more
Rositsa Zlatilova
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...more
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...more
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 reads more like a diary of those trips. The first part mostly describes her growing up in Sofia, discussing her life in school, various activities such as...more
Ilona lalova
The book is very engaging, especially for those of us who lived through that period in communist and post-communist Bulgaria. The first part is amazing, it reflects to the tiniest details the absurdity of everyday life during the 70s and 80s. It made me cry more than few times. The second part is definitely engaging too, even though I felt it was a little rushed and forced at times. I like Kapka Kassabova's sense of humor even though I think some of its beauty was lost in the translation.
Inspired by the reading suggestions of "A year of reading the world: 196 countries, countless stories… " I ordered this book about Bulgaria. Written by returning émigré Kapka Kassabova it is an autobiography that shows what life was like growing up before the fall of the Berlin wall and what it is like to come back to the country afterwards when things have changed (or collapsed even further) but not all for the better. As the writer surmises, nobody has e...more
Really interesting and enjoyable memoir of growing up in Bulgaria in the 70s and 80s and then revisiting it later after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Kapka Kassabova is an engaging and inventive writer with an eye for quirky detail, original and evocative description, and a highly readable blend of the personal, political and historical. She weaves in heaps of information about the various shifts in power not just in her lifetime but over the centuries – Romans, Ottomans, Bulgars, Turks, Greeks,...more
Shaza Askar
When Kassabova leaves her country, she has to leave behind most of her identity. She senses that Bulgaria, after the fall of communism, is becoming a very different place. But none of this can possibly make any sense to the people she meets abroad because even if they have heard of Bulgaria, they know very little or nothing about it.

In this autobiographical travelogue, Kassabova returns to her home country in order to find out what has happened, and whether the violent transformation it has unde...more
Sharm Alagaratnam
Kapka Kassabova took the long way round to Edinburgh, growing up in Bulgaria and with pit stops in Essex and Dunedin, New Zealand, apparently without losing her sense of humour on the way. The Guardian has an excerpt of her book, below. Bulgaria is a place I know far too little about, and Kassabova seems to be just the person to hold my hand while I learn. I've already sent a pleading email to the library to buy a copy. This sounds like a book they definitely need!

Kapka Kassabova grew up in 1980...more
I had picked up this book at local library somewhat reluctantly. But it did not disappoint me. These are memoirs of a girl who spent her growing life in Stalinist/communist Bulgaria.

It shows the ugliness of communism when (most of the times?) it does not work. Along the way, one learns about Bulgaria’s history -500 yrs of Ottoman Turk domination, Balkan geopolitics including Macedonia being a part of Bulgaria etc., communist regime’s persecution, renaming of Turkish minority, atmosphere of drea...more
The book is a very honest account of the author's childhood in Bulgaria during the last two decades of the Cold War, and truly reflects her emotional experience in the country of origin after nearly two decades of living abroad. (Kapka Kassabova emigrated from Bulgaria in 1990, and writes in English).
During her visit to Bulgaria, Kapka Kassabova describes in an intimate way and at the same time with a fine sense of humor places and people, revitalizes memories and layers of history.
Please, take...more
Cailin Deery
I did a bit of searching (then digging) ahead of a work trip to Bulgaria, looking for the already-familiar to build upon (Politicians? Authors? Artists? Film? Major historical events? Anyone of note, for better or worse?), but found very little. (Though did terrorize myself by watching a bunch of Ross Kemp documentaries) In answer to that, I picked up Street Without a Name: part memoir of a girl growing up in Sofia, and part travelogue as she comes back an expat years later. Kassabova’s project...more
Pei Pei
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...more
Finally - a memoir of Communist times (and after) that isn't totally and completely depressing. Don't get me wrong, the author hated growing up behind the iron curtain and couldn't wait to get out, but looking back at her life there, and returning as a "westernized" adult, she is able to put things in perspective - both the bad and the good. My only complaint is that she switches between visits to post-communist Bulgaria at strange parts of the narrative, and doesn't really explain enough about...more
Antoaneta Mitrusheva
Ако трябва да определя тази книга с една дума, то тя би била "носталгия". Ако мога да използвам две, бих добавила и "горчивина".
Върна ме много назад във времето, извика десетки спомени. Често имах усещането за "дежа ву" - "да, точно така беше", "да, това и аз съм го изживяла".
Припомних си разни забравени моменти, емоции, усещания.
Научих нови неща - обичам книги, от които научавам нещо.
Но книгата ми нагарчаше твърде много на моменти. Искаше ми се да е малко по-оптимистична като усещане. А не да...more
The first part of this book, in which she recounts her childhood and teenage years in Communist Bulgaria, are absolutely fascinating. However, the latter part of the book, in which she returns to Bulgaria and travels around, became unfocused and I struggled to stay with it. There were interesting snippets but the telling lacked cohesion.
In reality the first half of this book was solidly 4 stars for me and the second half was only 2. I found Kassabova's description of growing up in Bulgaria and moving to the West in her late teens absorbing and transporting. There were some interesting parallels to my husband's experiences in the Soviet Union during the same time period that made it even more relevant to me. The second half is a travelogue of Bulgaria that jumps around in time and space in a way that was confusing for me and tha...more
Feb 04, 2010 Toni rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoys good storytelling that gives readers a sense of place
I enjoyed this book immensely, particularly the author's stories of her childhood in Communist Bulgaria in the 1980s. It tended to wander toward the end, when she revisits her native country over more than one period of time, but that didn't take away from the emotional depth, wry wit, and rich sense of history the author imparts in her storytelling. A side note: while I realize this probably wasn't the author's doing, but the publisher really could have included a map or two, because the storie...more
Vanya Slantcheva
По тази безименна за времето си улица минаха едновременно няколко поколения, но едно от тях изживя юношеството си там съвършено безименно. Това поколение сега е на около 35 и кусур години. Книгата припознава всеки, който е носил обувките му - изтъркани от ежедневното безименно ходене, стъпвали по плюещите плочки на тротоарните брожения, сред кал и преливащи улични кошчета от боклук и нетърпимост. Поколение, опитало - кога успешно, кога неуспешно - да потърси име за себе си извън вакуума на обезл...more
The first half of the book I would give 4 stars, but the latter half deserves a two at best.

While the memoir was fascinating and informative. I felt too often that in her travelogue section she slipped too often into "speaking for" Bulgaria, even though she admits at times she at times felt like a stranger, having been living as an expat for so many years. I would have been more expecting of her interpretations and conclusions if she had given us more of the observations that got her there... b...more
Anne Van
Delighted to read a book about Bulgaria, by a Bulgarian, no less. But, the book....a memoir of growing up in Sofia, leaving for the West in 1991 when she was 17, then returning for a month's vacation to travel around seeing the "Bulgaria Now", felt superficial. The memoir section was pretty interesting, even though it seemed more like an adolescent's diary, but the travel sections simply had me skipping over chunks of it. I'm just not that interested in what kind of taxi driver she had, the line...more
This is an eastern european travelogue from the point of view of an ambivalent expatriate returning home, which gives an added dimension compared to travelogues of interested foreigners like, say, Rebecca West. (There's a point when the narratives of this book and "Black Lamb and Grey Falcon" almost touch, in the chapter dealing with Macedonia.)

The first and more autobiographical half of the book was often quite poignant, as were the later parts in which the author visits her ailing, lonely rela...more
A wonderfully well-observed memoir and travelogue through the last years of communism and Bulgaria, past and present. What I especially loved were its reflections on the malleable natures and interplays of identity, nationality, geography, and religion. And of the creation of identity through the retelling of stories - I recently saw Enda Walsh's WALWORTH FARCE and NEW ELECTRIC BALLROOM, and they nicely complemented my reading of STREET WITHOUT A NAME: CHILDHOOD AND OTHER MISADVENTURES IN BULGAR...more
Dark and fascinating; an intense and personal portrait of a tragically overlooked country. My favorite bit was the memoir in the first third, but her travels around Bulgaria are intriguing as well. I loved learning about the history of 1/8th of my roots, and taking a little tour around the country. But I was left really wondering what happened to Kapka between landing in New Zealand and moving to the Scottish Highlands--and I wish she had more hope for her native land.
Margaret Crampton
Having just returned from Bulgaria I loved this book as it augments the guide books giving the country a human face. First described through the eyes of a child growing up in the dreary but authoritarian communist regime and then through the same eyes of a young woman who has seen the world outside. It is a personal comment on the country and the failed experiment of communism.
It unravels some in the second half, although the second half - understandably because they're adult not child memories - is more nuanced, and certainly provides plenty of true moments about visiting or living in the Balkans, especially the complexity of personal and communal identity that dominates daily life throughout the region. I'd give it 3 1/2 stars if I could.
I enjoyed this author's writing style, and it was interesting because I've never really read anything about Bulgaria. It highlighted my ignorance of eastern European geography, though, so I sometimes found it hard to follow. I wish there had been some maps! Perhaps that was a deliberate choice to get readers to look it up for themselves...
Living in Bulgaria and married to a Bulgaria, I really enjoyed reading this book, particularly the first half when she talks about growing up in Sofia. Some things made me laugh, and some things were so familiar to me, living here 30 years later, that it made me cringe. Fun read for anyone who knows Bulgaria.
Wished I could give it 3 1/2 stars. Like most memoirs, could've been 75 pages shorter and I had a hard time figuring out the people who were constantly coming and going. But she funny enough for me to round up to four stars instead of down to three=).
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Kapka was born in 1973 in Bulgaria, raised and educated by her engineers' parents. She attended the French College in Sofia, and two New Zealand universities.

In 1990, the family moved to England, and later to New Zealand. Five years ago Kapka moved to Britain because the climate is so much better here.

She lives in sunny Edinburgh as a cultural mongrel and is working on a simplified version of he...more
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“I chose to see emigration and globe-trotting as an escape, not as a loss. Nowhere to call home? No problem, the world is my oyster. Where are you from, they ask. Does it matter, I answer.
But it does. Because how can you truly know yourself, and how can you know other place and people, if you don't even know where you come from?”
“Where do nations begin? In airport lounges, of course. You see them arriving, soul by soul, in pre-activation mode. They step into no man's land, with only their passports to hold onto, and follow the signs to the departure gate. There, among the impersonal plastic chairs and despite themselves, they coalesce into the murky Rorschach stain of nationhood.” 1 likes
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