Roma French authors
Our collection of French Roma authors is not, as yet, as developed as it as it could be, but we hold books by some of the most prominent Roma advocates of the Roma culture and way of life in France: Sandra Jayat and Alexandre RomanĂšs.
Sandra Jayat was born in Italy, or France, in 1939. She came from the Roma group called âManoucheâ or âSintiâ. At the age of 15, she fled to Paris to escape a forced marriage. She sought refuge with her cousin Django Reinhardt, the jazz musician, taught herself how to read and paint, and soon became the muse of Parisian artists and writers. Herbes Manouches, her first collection of poems, was published in 1961 and illustrated by Jean Cocteau. In 1972, she produced a recording of readings of her poems, accompanied with original music by Reinhardt. In 1978, her semi-autobiographical novel, La longue route dâune zingarina, became a success, selling more than 40,000 copies, and being read in schools. Jayat still lives in France today. Her entire artistic oeuvre is inspired by the world and symbolism of Roma.
Jayat is also a renowned painter, and has always been committed to the recognition of Roma artists. She organised the exhibition âPremiĂšre Mondiale de lâArt Tziganeâ, which ran from 6 to 30 May 1985 at the Conciergerie in Paris. We have her Moudravi, ouÌ va l'amitieÌ, published in 1966 and illustrated by Marc Chagall (X.908/14070.)
Books by Alexandre RomanĂšs, photo by Fabienne FĂ©lix, Flickr
Born in 1951, Alexandre RomanĂšs comes from a famous family of circus artists. Thinking that the circus was losing the values of the Roma, he quit in the 1970s to create his own travelling show. He met the French poet Jean Genet, who became a friend, and Lydie Dattas, who taught him to read and became his first wife. RomanĂšs went on to create his own âTzigan Circusâ, the âCirque Romanesâ, in 1993.
This prompted a writing career, dedicated to poetry and the defense of Roma values and ways of life. After publishing Le Premier Cirque tsigane dâEurope, in 1994, RomanĂšs wrote Un peuple de promeneurs in 1998 (2011 edition, BL YF.2013.a.16398), Paroles perdues, published in 2004, (2010 edition YF.2010.a.32293) and Sur l'Ă©paule de l'ange (Paris, 2010; YF.2011.a.5.). His two latest publications, Les corbeaux sont les Gitans du ciel (2016) and Le luth noir (2017), will soon be at the library.
His style consists of short poems, aphorisms, memories and scenes of Roma life and wisdom:
Si on pouvait noterâŠ
Si on pouvait noter
toutes les phrases magnifiques
qui se disent chaque jour dans le monde,
on pourrait publier chaque matin
un live exceptionnel.
(If one could take note, if one could take note, of all the magnificent sentences, which are said everyday in the world, one could publish, every morning, an exceptional book.)
Sophie Defrance, Curator Romance Collections
Diary of a Young Roma Traveller
Cover of Mykola Burmek-Diuriâs book, Shchodennyk molodoho roma-mandrivnyka (Uzhhorod, 2017) YF.2019.a.9992. The BLâs copy is signed by the author.
Two years ago, the Roma writer Mykola Burmek-Diuri caught the attention of the Ukrainian media following the publication of his book, Shchodennyk molodoho roma-mandrivnyka (âDiary of a Young Roma Travellerâ). Writing in Ukrainian, Burmek-Diuri provides a unique window into the daily life, culture, traditions and history of the Roma community in Zakarpattia, the region in southwestern Ukraine where Burmek-Diuri and the majority of the countryâs Romani population live, through a mixture of autobiographical stories, fairytales and ethnographic sketches. Given the rise in violent attacks against Roma communities in the country in recent years, this book is particularly timely and important for its presentation of the world through the eyes of a young Roma writer. Burmek-Diuri has since published two further books: Mama kazaly pravdu (Uzhhorod, 2018; YF.2019.a.7579) and, most recently, a collection of poetry and prose entitled Honir dykoi troiandy. All three were published with the support of the International Renaissance Foundationâs Roma Programme, which works with NGOs and activists in Ukraine to involve ârepresentatives of the Roma community in social processes and combating discriminationâ.
Katie McElvanney, Curator Slavonic and East European Collections
Romani authors in Czechoslovakia
In her foreword to the English edition of the book A False Dawn: My Life as a Gypsy Woman in Slovakia by Elena LackovĂĄ, Milena HĂŒbschmannovĂĄ, one of the founders of the Roma Studies as an academic discipline in Czechoslovakia, wrote: âWhat can I say about Roma better than the song of a lone Romani womanâs life experience?â. And this is true indeed. This book is available in English, and is a really fascinating account of Romani traditions, customs, ceremonies and superstitions, seen though the life of someone who grew up to become the first Romani author in post-Second World War Czechoslovakia. Elena LackovĂĄ (Ilona Lasko, 1921â2003), born in a Roma settlement in VeÄŸkĂœ Ć ariĆĄ in eastern Slovakia, was the only girl among the 600 children in the settlement to complete primary education and in her 20s became the first author to give the Romani people a voice in literature. Many consider her to be the Roma equivalent of the writer BoĆŸena NÄmcovĂĄ, who played a prominent part in the Czech National Revival movement. In her works LackovĂĄ transformed and refined original folk tales opening a whole new world of the people who had been almost invisible before. Her first literary work was a play written in Slovak, Horiaci cigĂĄnsky tabor (âThe Gypsy Camp is Burningâ, 1947) about the local Romaâs collective experience of the Second World War. Later she chose to write in Romani and founded a Romani periodical, Romano Lâil (Gypsy News).
Elena LackovĂĄ is probably the best-known name, but definitely not the only one in Romani literature. Tera FabiĂĄnovĂĄ was the first person in the former Czechoslovakia to write poems in Romani. The Department of Folk Music Research and Ethnomusicology of the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna recorded her reciting her poems in Romani.
Romani women in Czechoslovakia in 1959, a photo by FOTO:FORTEPAN / Zsanda Zsolt, Wikimedia Commons
ÄœudovĂt Didi (1931â2013) was a Czechoslovak dissident, chartist and Romani Slovak author. His first book PrĂbehy svĂ€tenĂ© vetrom (âStories of the Holy Windâ; Bratislava, 2004; YF.2006.a.19867) is considered to be the first ever authentic Roma novel. His other three books RĂłm Tardek a jeho osud (âRoma Tardek and his destinyâ; Bratislava, 2013; YF.2016.a.3251), Äierny RĂłm a biela lĂĄska (âBlack Roma and white loveâ, 2011) and CigĂĄnkina veĆĄtba (âThe Gypsy Prophesyâ; Bratislava,2008; YF.2010.a.8945) also tell the story of the Roma community.
ViĆ„o StaviarskĂœ, a well-known name in Slovak literature, is the author of the short story âKivaderâ (2007) and the novel âKale topankyâ (2012), which are set in a Romani settlement. In 2014, the publishing house Knihovna VĂĄclava Havla in Prague published a book of Romani women authors called Slunce zapadĂĄ uĆŸ rĂĄno (âThe sun sets in the morningâ). Irena EliĂĄĆĄovĂĄ, Jana HejkrlĂkovĂĄ, Iveta KokyovĂĄ and Eva DaniĆĄova contributed to it. I hope that we will see more of these books translated into English, so that they can get a wider readership.
Katya Rogatchevskaia, Lead Curator East European Collections
Elena LackovĂĄ, Narodila jsem se pod ĆĄĆ„astnou hvÄzdou (Prague, 1997) YA.2003.a.9308 (English translation by Carleton Bulkin, A false dawn: my life as a Gypsy woman in Slovakia (Paris; Hatfield, 1999) YC.2000.a.8592
Helena SadĂlkovĂĄ, âRomani Literature in the Czech and Slovak Republicsâ. In Countries & Regions. Accessed 11 June 2020: https://www.romarchive.eu/en/literature/literature-countries-and-regions/literature-czechoslovakia/
Jana HorvĂĄthovĂĄ, Roma in the Czech Lands. In Countries & Regions. Accessed 11 June 2020: https://www.romarchive.eu/en/roma-civil-rights-movement/roma-in-the-czech-lands-abstract/
Radka SteklĂĄ, Elena LackovĂĄ â romskĂĄ publicistka, spisovatelka o mĂ©dia. Bachelor's thesis. Univerzita Karlova v Praze. 2006. Accessed 11 June 2020: https://is.cuni.cz/webapps/zzp/detail/1444/?lang=en
How did a tiny settlement of around 230 souls and 60 houses in northeastern Hungary put itself on the map? BĂłdvalenke, a community of Romani majority, became renowned as the âfresco villageâ thanks to a remarkable initiative some ten years ago. A charitable organisation started to invite Romani artists, both from Hungary and abroad, to use the dull windowless walls in the neighbourhood as blank canvasses for giant colourful paintings.
Mural by JĂłzsef Ferkovics. A colourful album dedicated to the work of the artist and published recently is among our recent acquisitions. Image by PĂĄsztĂ¶rperc - Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0
The aim of the project was to pull the village out of deep poverty: each house volunteered by its inhabitants was given new plastering before being decorated, but the community as a whole would also benefit in a variety of ways from any income generated by the arrival of visitors to this unique open-air display. Today, one can see 33 magnificent murals by 18 painters on Romani and Gypsy themes: old legends, traditional life, family, grief and dreams. Sadly however, with the lack of infrastructure it is proving difficult to attract tourists and the village is still struggling economically.
Everyday life in BĂłdvalenke. Mural by Rozi CsĂĄmpai. Rozi CsĂĄmpai features in a book on Romani women painters in today's Hungary: SzĂnekben oldott Ă©letek: cigĂĄny festĆnĆk a mai MagyarorszĂĄgon (Budapest, 2011; YF.2011.a.11388). Image by PĂĄsztĂ¶rperc at Hungarian Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0
Ildi Wollner, Curator East & SE European Collections
Ferkovics JĂłzsef festĆmĆ±vĂ©sz. ([GencsapĂĄti], 2019). Awaiting shelfmark.