|Edith and I: on the trail of an Edwardian traveller in Kosovo
"Elizabeth Gowing’s descriptions of people and places will have you wanting to head to Kosovo on the next available flight. Her passion for the country shines through her quest to discover the life of Edith Durham, another British woman who took Kosovo and Kosovars to her heart." - John McCarthy
'The most delightful read of the summer' - The Times
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Two Kosovo journeys a century apart.
In 1900, Europe’s last wilderness was explored by a most unlikely champion, a stout, stubborn Englishwoman who travelled in her tam o’shanter across the Accursed Mountains into Kosovo. Edith Durham was dubbed ‘Queen of the Highlanders’ by the Albanians who honoured her for her anthropological writing, her humanitarian aid and her tireless lobbying for their cause.
One hundred years later, I came to Kosovo and also fell in love with the country. Dividing my time between there and London, I thought that no-one would understand my identity crisis; but as I unravelled Edith’s story through archives and museum collections in Britain and retraced Edith’s steps in Kosovo I learned from her what I should do with my life.
Tracing the revelations in old diaries, jolting along Kosovan roads in a ‘motokultivator’, learning from Edith the secrets of the harem, and from monks the treasures of Unesco World Heritage Site monasteries, I travelled on Edith’s trail and ended up finding not only an Edwardian heroine but also a guide to my own very twenty-first century dilemma.
An extract from the book is available on the website of the writers' group I belong to, Magnetic North.
I wrote the introduction for IB Tauris' forthcoming collection of Edith Durham's letters and articles, available for pre-order at Amazon.co.uk.
The Kosovan Post Office recently issued a stamp showing Edith Durham. I was interviewed on the BBC World Service about the stamp and what it means. The March 2010 issue of Stanley Gibbons' Stamp Monthly also contains my article about the stamp.
As well as writing biography in this new form, I have translated, from the Albanian, Shkëlzen Gashi's biography of Adem Demaçi, Yugoslavia's longest-held political prisoner, and the memoirs of Hasan Prishtina (reviewed in the Central and Eastern European Review). Both published by Rrokullia and available at bookshops across Kosovo. My approach to translation and views on the state of translation in Kosovo appeared in this article in Kosovan daily, Zeri.