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Street Without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria

3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  267 Ratings  ·  50 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 KassabovaThrown into Nature by Милен Русков
Contemporary Bulgarian Fiction in English
4th out of 12 books — 15 voters
Light Love Rituals by Ronesa AveelaStreet Without a Name by Kapka KassabovaMystical Emona by Ronesa AveelaCold Snap by Cynthia Morrison PhoelThe Fragility of Goodness by Tzvetan Todorov
About Bulgaria
1st out of 17 books — 4 voters

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Community Reviews

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Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
Kapka Kassabova grew up in Bulgaria under the Communist regime, immigrating to New Zealand in 1991, at the age of 19. In the years after her departure, she returned to the country several times to visit older relatives and to sightsee. The first part of this book is a solid 4-star memoir about her childhood; the rest documents her travels and earns 2.5 or 3 stars. Unfortunately, the travel section is the longer, so I’m rounding down.

The memoir immediately captured my attention with stories of li
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
Jun 06, 2013 Castaway rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 17, 2009 Francis rated it liked it
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
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
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
Maria Rousseva
May 01, 2015 Maria Rousseva rated it really liked it
In terms of books about Bulgaria, this is a definite top choice. Unlike its cousins, it does not focus on the statistical history of the country, but on the emotional memories of an author who, for decades, has dismissed her home country. This is beneficial in the essence that it provides a fresh, meaningful point of view of not only this great, but forgotten, country’s history, but also the people and state of living in the country itself, which is often bypassed. This memoir, in relation to ot ...more
Ilona lalova
Aug 10, 2010 Ilona lalova rated it really liked it
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.
Oct 03, 2014 Arjen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 03, 2014 Philippa rated it really liked it
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
Moushumi Ghosh
I loved Kapka Kassabova's poetry and was flirting with the idea of studying them for my PhD. Hence, I wanted to read about her childhood. This was an ideal starting place. She wrote it herself even though she admits that it is a fictionalised retelling of her childhood. What isn't a constructed when we look back? Memory is treacherous anyway. So whatever we 'remember' is a construction in any case.

Somewhere in the middle of the book, my attention flagged and I read several others books before I
Shaza Askar
Jun 02, 2014 Shaza Askar rated it liked it
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
May 14, 2015 Kath rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting glimpse into real life for kids growing up in Bulgaria in the 80s, right at the end of Communism. But it's so much more. It's a poet, coming to terms with her identity, sharing her people and her country with us, which is a gift. In a way, her story reminded me of the story of anyone who grows up being indoctrinated and then getting out. It takes a long, long time to figure out how you really stand, the parts you love, the parts you want to hang on to, the parts that you can't f ...more
Sharm Alagaratnam
Dec 20, 2008 Sharm Alagaratnam rated it liked it
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
Apr 22, 2013 Nirmal rated it really liked it
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
Sep 30, 2008 Albena rated it really liked it
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
Cailin Deery
Sep 02, 2012 Cailin Deery rated it liked it
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
Jul 09, 2015 Thomas rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: travel fans
Shelves: travel
This book is part autobiographic and part travel. The author grew up in communist Bulgaria and left, along with her family, after the fall of communism. The first third of the book is about what it was like to grow up in communist Bulgaria. The rest of the book is about how capitalism has affected Bulgaria, told through a series of return visits over the years, visiting family and friends. She writes about poverty, corruption and change, some of it good, and some of it very depressing.

I enjoyed
Carolyn Roberts
I've never read a book about Bulgaria before, and this had some interesting anecdotes and shed some light on a country I knew nothing about. But it would have been more enjoyable if the structure was a bit more thought out - it jumped about a bit too much and could have lost fifty pages or so without being any worse off.
Tatjana Bitzakidis
Dec 30, 2014 Tatjana Bitzakidis rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book, would recommend it to anyone who emigrated from the Eastern to the Western Europe. For all of us a bit 'lost in translation'. For all of us reconciling memories from the country we were born into the countries where we live now. Where neither country is quite that 'perfect fit'... When answer to the question 'Where are you from?' warrants a bit longer answer than just a single word...
Mar 16, 2014 Alice rated it really liked it
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
Feb 27, 2014 Lyn rated it liked it
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.
Aug 23, 2009 Karen rated it liked it
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
Dec 27, 2014 Autumn rated it really liked it
A great book in which to learn about the history, culture and people of Bulgaria. A good travel guide to the various areas of the country (though she doesn't do much to entice you to take a trip there).
Feb 04, 2010 Toni rated it really liked it
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
Jul 15, 2015 Vanya Slantcheva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 01, 2012 Ariel rated it liked it
Shelves: bulgaria
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
Anne Van
Apr 13, 2011 Anne Van rated it it was ok
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
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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 about Kapka Kassabova...

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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.” 2 likes
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