Monday, 7 November 2016
Zoli - Colum McCann
Let's get serious for a little while. I had this on my shelves, chosen, I expect, because of the cover, although the subject when I turned the book over was what hooked me ultimately. If you look on Amazon, you will notice that there are about 7 different covers for this book. Perhaps the publishers just couldn't get it to sell. Pity. This is a story that, whilst sad, will inform, will anger, will open your eyes.
Let me first say that whilst this is a fiction, it is based on the life of a Romany/Gypsy singer and poet called Papusza. Zoli is a real gypsy. a girl who lives in a caravan drawn by a horse, and her country is Slovakia, her tongue Slovac. She is orphaned as a small child, by the Hlinkas, the Slavic version of the Nazis. Look them up. At six, suddenly, she and her grandfather are all that are left of the family group they travel with. Travelling at night, keeping away from the Hlinkas, they eventually find and join a group of Roma musicians. The story takes us from the 1930s up until the beginning of the 21st century. It makes fascinating reading, albeit sometimes very grim indeed. Because she has a beautiful voice, she falls in with the new "comrades" in Slovakia - those who want everyone to share in everything that is good and for a while she becomes famous. Just for a while. A friend of mine is from Roma blood, and this made the book more interesting to me A fascinating culture, left behind by civilisation, by their own choice. But then - the bright new comrades of Slovakia think it isn't fair for the Roma to miss out - they will want the heated homes, the proper floors and doors that everyone else is going to get - Won't they?
There is a Polish film (2013) called Papusza, using the Polish and the Roma languages, shot in black and white, which is Papusza's story. |If this has interested you, I suggest you read the book and then get hold of the film. Get as much from this very small but important life - and remember though it was the Nazi party that wanted to rid the world of Jews and Gypsies.... they were not the only group that wanted that result.