New Zealand Listener

Circling the abyss

Kapka Kassabova met her great-grandmother Ljubitsa just once, a small woman, she recalls, with “cold, intelligent eyes”, a compulsive cleaner committed to the family motto, “perfection or death”.

Ljubitsa’s fearsome “mother-queen” persona focused on her daughters, who passed it on down the line, including to Kassabova’s own mother. It’s a female-to-female psychological disorder that eventually manifests itself in illness, or what Kassabova’s mother calls “The Pain”. Now, at the age of

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