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 Roman√®s.
Sandra Jayat was born in Italy, or France, in 1939. She came from the Roma group called ‚ÄúManouche‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúSinti‚ÄĚ. 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 d‚Äôune 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 ‚ÄėPremi√®re Mondiale de l‚ÄôArt Tzigane‚Äô, which ran from 6 to 30 May 1985 at the Conciergerie in Paris. We have her Moudravi, ouŐÄ va l'amitieŐĀ, published in 1966 and illustrated by Marc Chagall (X.908/14070.)
Books by Alexandre Roman√®s, photo by Fabienne F√©lix, Flickr
Born in 1951, Alexandre Roman√®s 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. Roman√®s went on to create his own ‚ÄúTzigan Circus‚ÄĚ, the ‚ÄúCirque Romanes‚ÄĚ, 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 d‚ÄôEurope, in 1994, Roman√®s 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'√©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 noter‚Ä¶
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-Diuri‚Äôs book, Shchodennyk molodoho roma-mandrivnyka (Uzhhorod, 2017) YF.2019.a.9992. The BL‚Äôs 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 (‚ÄėDiary of a Young Roma Traveller‚Äô). 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 country‚Äôs 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 Foundation‚Äôs Roma Programme, which works with NGOs and activists in Ukraine to involve ‚Äėrepresentatives of the Roma community in social processes and combating discrimination‚Äô.
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 Lackov√°, Milena H√ľbschmannov√°, one of the founders of the Roma Studies as an academic discipline in Czechoslovakia, wrote: ‚ÄúWhat can I say about Roma better than the song of a lone Romani woman‚Äôs life experience?‚ÄĚ. 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 Lackov√° (Ilona Lasko, 1921‚Äď2003), born in a Roma settlement in Veńĺk√Ĺ Ň†ariŇ° 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 BoŇĺena Nńõmcov√°, who played a prominent part in the Czech National Revival movement. In her works Lackov√° 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 cig√°nsky tabor (‚ÄėThe Gypsy Camp is Burning‚Äô, 1947) about the local Roma‚Äôs collective experience of the Second World War. Later she chose to write in Romani and founded a Romani periodical, Romano L‚Äôil (Gypsy News).
Elena Lackov√° is probably the best-known name, but definitely not the only one in Romani literature. Tera Fabi√°nov√° 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
ńĹudov√≠t Didi (1931‚Äď2013) was a Czechoslovak dissident, chartist and Romani Slovak author. His first book Pr√≠behy sv√§ten√© vetrom (‚ÄėStories of the Holy Wind‚Äô; Bratislava, 2004; YF.2006.a.19867) is considered to be the first ever authentic Roma novel. His other three books R√≥m Tardek a jeho osud (‚ÄėRoma Tardek and his destiny‚Äô; Bratislava, 2013; YF.2016.a.3251), ńĆierny R√≥m a biela l√°ska (‚ÄėBlack Roma and white love‚Äô, 2011) and Cig√°nkina veŇ°tba (‚ÄėThe Gypsy Prophesy‚Äô; Bratislava,2008; YF.2010.a.8945) also tell the story of the Roma community.
ViŇ•o Staviarsk√Ĺ, a well-known name in Slovak literature, is the author of the short story ‚ÄėKivader‚Äô (2007) and the novel ‚ÄėKale topanky‚Äô (2012), which are set in a Romani settlement. In 2014, the publishing house Knihovna V√°clava Havla in Prague published a book of Romani women authors called Slunce zapad√° uŇĺ r√°no (‚ÄėThe sun sets in the morning‚Äô). Irena Eli√°Ň°ov√°, Jana Hejkrl√≠kov√°, Iveta Kokyov√° and Eva DaniŇ°ova 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 Lackov√°, Narodila jsem se pod Ň°Ň•astnou hvńõzdou (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 Sad√≠lkov√°, ‚ÄėRomani Literature in the Czech and Slovak Republics‚Äô. In Countries & Regions. Accessed 11 June 2020: https://www.romarchive.eu/en/literature/literature-countries-and-regions/literature-czechoslovakia/
Jana Horv√°thov√°, 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 Stekl√°, Elena Lackov√° ‚Äď romsk√° publicistka, spisovatelka o m√©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? B√≥dvalenke, a community of Romani majority, became renowned as the ‚Äėfresco village‚Äô 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 J√≥zsef Ferkovics. A colourful album dedicated to the work of the artist and published recently is among our recent acquisitions. Image by P√°szt√∂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 B√≥dvalenke. Mural by Rozi Cs√°mpai. Rozi Cs√°mpai features in a book on Romani women painters in today's Hungary: Sz√≠nekben oldott √©letek: cig√°ny festŇĎnŇĎk a mai Magyarorsz√°gon (Budapest, 2011; YF.2011.a.11388). Image by P√°szt√∂rperc at Hungarian Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0
Ildi Wollner, Curator East & SE European Collections
Ferkovics J√≥zsef festŇĎmŇĪv√©sz. ([Gencsap√°ti], 2019). Awaiting shelfmark.