Kapka Kassabova wins Scottish Book of the Year at the Saltire Literary Awards

A book described as 'a meditation on the significance of borders' has been announced as the Scottish Book of the Year at the Saltire Literary Awards 2017. Kapka Kassabova, a Bulgarian writer who lives in Scotland, won the award for Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe, which is based on her travels in the frontier lands of Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece.

Explaining their decision, the judges noted: “If ever there was a book for our times, it is Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe, which delves into the stories of when the lines that separate countries on the map harden once more after their Cold War thaw. It is at once timely and timeless, with Kassabova - a poet and travel writer by trade - blending skills to spin something truly magical.”

In a review published earlier this year, The Scotsman’s chief literary critic Allan Massie called the book “rich and well-written” and described Kassabova as a writer with “a lively sense of humour.”

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The Saltire Society Literary Awards are supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland and celebrate and support literary and academic excellence across six categories. The winner of each individual award wins a £2,000 cash prize and goes forward to be considered for the Saltire Book of the Year award and an accompanying cash prize of £3,000.

Angus Peter Campbell won Fiction Book of the Year for Memory and Straw, a novel which explores the ethics of artificial intelligence, Ever Dundas won the First Book award for Goblin, a tale about a wartime orphan, while Em Strang won Poetry Book of the Year for her collection Bird-Woman. The prize for Research Book of the Year went to Peter Mackay and Iain MacPherson for The Light Blue Book: 500 Years of Gaelic Love and Transgressive Poetry, and Kassabova won in the Non-Fiction category.

The History Book of the Year Award panel decided not to make an award this year. Commenting on their decision, convener of the awards Professor Christopher Whatley, said:

“The Scottish History Book of the Year panel decided not to make the award this year. This we greatly regret. Several publishers submitted titles. Some of these failed to meet the standards we expect to make such a prestigious award, supported by our sponsors the Scottish Historical Review Trust. Other titles didn’t meet our criteria. Perhaps this was simply a disappointing year, and the normal flow of exceptional books on Scotland’s history will recommence in time for the 2018 award.”

Scottish publishers were also honoured at the awards. Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2017, Edinburgh-based Birlinn won Publisher of the Year. Accepting the award, Hugh Andrew, founder and managing director, said: “Together the members of the Birlinn family have achieved many great things. To receive this award in our 25th anniversary year is very gratifying. I am incredibly proud of the team and offer my own thanks to them for the work that goes in, often unseen, to make publishing of this standard a possibility.”

Commenting on the Birlinn win, the author Alexander McCall Smith said: “Nobody could deserve this honour more than Birlinn. This team of energetic and highly creative people has achieved wonders over the last few years, proving that Scottish publishing, once the envy of the world, can do it again.”

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The Emerging Publisher of the Year Award was presented jointly to founders of indie publisher 404Ink, Laura Jones and Heather McDaid.

To read Allan Massie’s review of Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe, click here