Monday, 16 April 2012

Twelve Minutes of Love - Kapka Kassabova

Have you ever danced at a Milonga?  Do you know what a Gancho is?  Ever had a Tangasm?  If so, then it’s very likely you’re a Tango addict like Kapka Kassabova.  If the answer’s no, then prepare to be informed, moved, seduced and entertained. 

Kapka Kassabova is a wonderful poet and the author of a previous memoir, ‘Street without a Name’, about growing up in Communist Bulgaria.  That story ends as the Kassabova family leave Bulgaria for the UK and New Zealand.  When Twelve Minutes of Love opens, Kapka is a 27 year old New Zealander, with no sense of belonging anywhere, and a permanent sense of what the Portuguese call ‘Saudade’ - a state of longing, homesickness and displacement; the condition of the exile.

Straying into a club one evening to meet friends, Kapka hears Tango for the first time, watches a couple dance it, and becomes hooked.  Tango was created in South America by exiles, displaced people living outside the fringes of society.   It’s a hybrid, a sinuous, seductive mongrel - a music that was in perfect synchronicity with Kapka’s mood at the time.
Kapka with her collection of Tango shoes
Soon, she was discovering that there are tango relationships and other relationships and the two don’t always mix.  The perfect partner in one life may have two left feet in the other. Kapka began travelling the world in search of tango - Auckland, Argentina, Berlin, Edinburgh, Marseilles - and the book describes her relationships and the extraordinary cast of characters she meets in what Kapka believes to be a search for new tango experiences, but which is in fact a search for who she is and where she belongs.  And, yes, it does have a happy ending.

This is a beautifully crafted memoir that uses the structure of the music as a structure for the book.  It’s a brilliant read and Kapka Kassabova obviously dances as well as she writes.  I'm jealous!

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