March is New Zealand book month. I was looking for something authentically kiwi to read and failed miserably! I’m not sure that Kapka Kassabova would even describe herself as a New Zealand author or an author from anywhere specific at all. That sense of not belonging anywhere, and of searching for that metaphoric place that feels like home is really what Twelve Minutes of Love is about – that, and of course, Tango.
Kassabova is a Bulgarian who immigrated to New Zealand as a teenager with her family in the 1990’s. Despite escaping turbulent times in Eastern Europe and describing New Zealand as the most beautiful country in the world, it wasn’t home. Neither sadly was Sofia when she returned there years later. I found this aspect of her story especially powerful and I really understand how someone in this situation could find themselves constantly looking for something that feels right.
Twelve Minutes of Love is a non-fiction, memoir/travel journal of a decade of Kassabova’s life as she travelled the world writing and searching for the next tango fix. Her travels took her from New Zealand to Buenos Aires several times, to Berlin, Paris, New York and eventually Scotland. Personal, honest, funny and fascinating – a story that will appeal to all the restless souls amongst us.
The twelve minutes referred to is the average amount of time spent dancing a set of tango dances (a tanda) with the same person. Kassabova tells us early on that twelve minutes of sheer bliss on the dance floor does not usually translate to much bliss off the dance floor – leading to inevitable heartache for those fooled into thinking it could be otherwise.
The first thing to say is that Kassabova is a very good writer and the second is that it is not essential (I don’t think) to know much about Tango to enjoy her story. For anyone who does love Tango, or is even a touch interested, I would think this book is a must read. There is a plenty of tango talk, history, music and passion. A great reference and I’m tempted to re read it slowly, a lot of knowledge to soak up.
For me as a New Zealander living away from home I found it especially poignant that the things about New Zealand that seem so boring and unappealing when living there and to Kassabova as an immigrant, are exactly the things that I would choose to return for. It’s all about the concept of home. The ending of the book and that chapter of Kapka Kassabova’s life leave the reader with the hope that she is on her way to finding a place to call home as well. I sincerely hope she finds it.
A great read, not easy to put down!
2011, 324 pages