Our story takes place in Kesten, a small village in the Rhodope region on the Greek and Bulgarian border. The village is virtually deserted and only twenty inhabitants still live there. Children no longer go to school. Vladimir, the mayor, is also the school headmaster and the post office manager. His relationship with his wife, Maria, depends on what role he’s playing. When he’s the mayor, he’s a suspicious husband. When he’s the headmaster, he’s a jealous lover who mistreats her and spies on her. When he’s the post office manager, he woos her in a timid and awkward fashion. Her husband’s crazy behaviour worries Maria and she pays a visit to one of the village’s elderly women who mixes up a plant-based potion to cure him. Other characters weave in and out of the story. We encounter a Bulgarian writer who keeps his unpublished poems in empty bottles, an ingenious, mischievous and resourceful smuggler and a French sociologist who has come to study the ethnic conflict in the Balkans and who will wind up seeing life through a specifically Balkan lens.
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