In the valley of the Mesta, Bulgaria, one of the oldest inhabited river valleys in Europe, where the surrounding forests and mountains are a nexus for wild plant gatherers, Kapka Kassabova finds a story with vast resonance for us all. Elixir is an unforgettable exploration of the deep connections between people, plants and place.
Over several seasons, Kassabova spends time with the people of this magical region. She meets women and men who work in a long lineage of foragers, healers and mystics. She learns about wild plants and the ancient practice of herbalism, and experiences a symbiotic system where nature and culture have blended for thousands of years. Through her captivating encounters we come to feel the devastating weight of the ecological and cultural disinheritance that the people of this valley have suffered. Yet, in her search for elixir, she also finds reasons for hope. The people of the valley are keepers of a rare knowledge, not only of mountain plants and their properties, but also of how to transform collective suffering into healing.
Immersive and enthralling, at its heart Elixir is a search for a cure to what ails us in the Anthropocene. It is an urgent call to rethink how we live – in relation to one another, to the Earth and to the cosmos.
Kapka Kassabova is a writer of narrative non-fiction, poetry and fiction. She grew up in Sofia, Bulgaria, was university educated in New Zealand, and since 2005 has lived in Scotland. In Border (2017) and To the Lake (2020) she explored the human geography of the southern Balkans. Border won the 2018 British Academy Prize for Global Cultural Understanding, the 2018 Edward Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year, the 2017 Saltire Society Book of the Year, the 2018 Highland Book Prize, and a number of European awards. To the Lake was awarded France's Best Foreign Book of Non-Fiction in 2021, and her work is translated into twenty languages.