Synopses & Reviews
The celebrated author of Border explores a mysterious, ancient, and little-understood corner of Europe.
Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespa. Two ancient lakes joined by underground rivers. Two lakes that seem to hold both the turbulent memories of the region's past — the site of conflict and struggle going back to the reign of Alexander the Great — and the secret of its enduring allure. Two lakes that have played a central role in Kapka Kassabova's maternal family.
As she journeys to her grandmother's place of origin in To the Lake, Kassabova encounters a civilizational crossroads. The lakes are set within the mountainous borderlands of North Macedonia, Albania, and Greece, and crowned by the ancient Via Egnatia, which once connected Rome to Constantinople. A former trading and spiritual nexus of the southern Balkans, this lake region remains one of Eurasia's oldest surviving religious melting pots. Meanwhile, with their remote rock churches, changeable currents, and large population of migratory birds, the lakes live in their own time.
By exploring on water and land the stories of poets, fishermen, and caretakers, misfits, rulers, and inheritors of war and exile, Kassabova uncovers the human history shaped by the lakes. Setting out to resolve her own ancestral legacy, Kassabova locates a deeper inquiry into how geography and politics imprint themselves upon families and nations, one that confronts her with questions about human suffering and the capacity for change.
"From the deep labyrinths of the Balkan past, Kapka Kassabova has returned with another hoard of extraordinary lives, tales of survival, dark comedy, and horror. Humanity glitters under her gaze in all its facets. Her prose is spectacularly good and her storytelling is a joy." Philip Marsden
"Kassabova's book shines...in the casual precision of the author's own observations. Her style is wily and imaginative, with sentences rapidly gliding into the unexpected." Bookforum
"Kassabova's journey is...expansive. This, coupled with the raw candor of its many conversations, gives the book an undeniable pulse. Through its sincerity and profundity, To the Lake proves Kapka Kassabova's to be one of Eurasia's definitive literary voices." World Literature Today
"To the Lake is an exquisitely written rallying cry to embrace the notion that the people of the Balkans — and indeed humanity as a whole — have more in common than what divides them, despite generations of strife suggesting otherwise." Financial Times (UK)
"In lyrical, radiant prose, [Kapka Kassabova] recounts her journey to the lakes in a quest to understand the historical forces that shaped her family and her sense of self...A haunting, captivating memoir of homecoming." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"This heartfelt exploration of the intersections between geography, history, and identity mesmerizes." Publishers Weekly
“Kassabova is a modern Scheherazade — a dazzling writer who tells stories as if her life depended on it.” Scottish Review of Books
About the Author
Kapka Kassabova grew up in Sofia, Bulgaria, and now lives in the Scottish Highlands. Her most recent book is Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.