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Interview with Elizabeth Gowing, author of Edith & I

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What if a woman from a century ago could help you understand your life today? ‘Edith and I‘ tells the story of me tracking down anthropologist, aid worker and feisty Balkan explorer, Edith Durham.

We don’t know who she is. Was – is – she famous?
Edith Durham may be all but unknown in her native land, but in Kosovo and Albania she has schools and roads named after her, and was the first woman to appear on a Republic of Kosovo stamp. She is known as ‘the Queen of the Mountain People’ in Albania, and is loved for the forthright accounts she wrote of her travels in the Balkans, in seven published books, for her lobbying for the Albanian cause, and for her humanitarian aid during the first and second Balkan wars, a century ago.

She sounds like quite a woman.
So, obviously, this book isn’t fiction?
It’s part biography, part travel literature.

Who will it appeal to?
Anyone who loves travel, biography, inspiring Women of Empire, or the thrills of research and discovering.

What attracted you to Edith’s story? You’re not Albanian.
I came to Kosovo seven years ago and, like Edith, fell in love with the place. I’ve learned to speak Albanian, and set up a charity, The Ideas Partnership working on environmental, education and cultural heritage projects.

Your love for the region was obvious in our previous interview, about your book The Little Book of Honey. You’ve written another book about the region, haven’t you?
My first book, ‘Travels in Blood and Honey; becoming a beekeeper in Kosovo‘ tells the story of my first few years in Kosovo.

There’s more to this book than just your affection for Kosovo, isn’t there? It’s an interesting story too, right?
Someone told me that they cried [on finishing the book] , which was the nicest compliment they could give my story-telling. I want people to feel regret that the extraordinary life of Edith Durham came
to an end. However, the book is also an account of how you can be inspired by people who died before you were born, so it would be great if people were also inspired to their own adventures having read of Edith’s.

Do you have a website where we can keep up with your work?
www.elizabethgowing.com.

How can we follow you on Twitter and/or Facebook?
@elizabethgowing and Elizabeth Gowing on Facebook.

What’s next? We’ve got a feeling you’re not done with Albania.
I’m researching a book about the Albanian diaspora around the world – I think it’s amazing that this small country has spread its people from Argentina to China, the Ukraine to New York, Istanbul and Sweden.

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