Kapka Kassabova



A Wild Pastoral


The spellbinding new book by the prizewinning writer Kapka Kassabova tells the story of her time with the last moving pastoralists in Europe: a gripping portrayal of human-animal interdependence, and a plea for a different way of living.

For thousands of years, humans and grazing animals moved with the seasons in search of pasture. On the flanks of the Pirin Mountains, the last true pastoralists continue this ancient practice as a way of life. Here, the paths are formed by dogs, shepherds, horses and sheep, moving together. Few people survive a whole summer in the alpine highlands, where human lives are as precarious as the lives of animals they care for – or who care for them.

In Anima, Kapka Kassabova lives with one of these communities, experiencing the intensity, brutality, beauty and isolation of their existence over one summer. She witnesses the epic, orchestrated activity of transhumance – the seasonal movement of vast herds of sheep, along with shepherds and dogs. As she becomes attuned to the sacrifices inherent in this work and the rich histories that shaped this Balkan region, Kassabova finds herself drawn deeper into the tangled relationships at the heart of the small community.

Anima is an extraordinary portrayal of pastoral life, where humans and animals exist in profound interdependence. Kassabova conjures the spirit of this remarkable place with intimacy and empathy, and helps us imagine how we might all begin to heal our broken relationship with the natural world.

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