Doc Zoli While I read this book I grappled with my lack of understanding This is a book of historical fiction I could not make up my mind if I wanted to learn the details about the life of Romani po
Doc Zoli While I read this book I grappled with my lack of understanding. This is a book of historical fiction; I could not make up my mind if I wanted to learn the details about the life of Romani poet Papsuza (1910-1987), on which this book is loosely based, or whether I should just read the book for the delight of falling into the story. Only when I stopped trying to learn the factual details and let myself just plain enjoy the story did I enjoy the book. In the process I did learn very much about the Romani culture. I learned a bit about Papsuza too, but there are major differences between the main character in the novel, Zoli, and the real person Papsuza.If I have any advice to give, it is to not demand complete understanding as you read this book. By the end you will understand. I was gripping after threads to master the subject. I was scared I would miss something and fail to understand. My advice: sit back, read the book, enjoy the sentences and do not worry if you do not understand everything. You will understand in the end. Many sentences can be interpreted in different ways. If you are looking for the truth, for the facts, you will surely be frustrated. I am giving this book four stars, because I love the writing. I love the message imparted by the book, and I did learned about Romani people, their hardships and lifestyle, with a focus on those living in Eastern Europe from the 30s through to the 21st Century.This paragraph concerns the differences between Zoli’s life, the main character of this book and Papsuza. Papsuza was of Polish origin. Zoli was Slovakian. Romani women were not taught to read or write, but both Papsuza and Zoli could. However Zoli learned from her grandfather while Papsuza stole thing to trade them for lessons. The very biggest difference is that in real life Papsuza was interned in a mental institution and spent the end of her life, the last 34 years, all alone. McCann has changed that ending (view spoiler)[and has her marry a wonderful Italian man with whom she has a daughter (hide spoiler)]. I needed McCann’s ending. I am glad he changed it. This is not a book about one woman. It is about Eastern European Romani people and it is a book that poses philosophical questions. In the lines of the book you will find the statement: “Nothing is ever fully understood.” Zoli says this, and it is clearly evident in the whole way the book is written. Life is a constant struggle to understand, and so is the book. If you enjoy pondering philosophical issues and don’t mind the brain exercise necessary to figure out what is going on, then the book is for you. This is a central theme. Listen to what is said about Henri: ”He knew in advance all that is worth knowing.” This is not to be taken as a compliment. But then humor is thrown in: “I have gone through so many of them (boyfriends), maybe I should get an accountant.” Another theme that is returned to again and again is inferred in this sentence: “The river is not where it starts or it ends.” Sentences such as this are thrown at you. I say that river is life. You may interpret this differently.In any case the writing is pure poetry – albeit free verse and unrhymed. Zoli speaks of gullible non-Romani: “You can make them swallow anything with enough sugar and tears. They will lick the tears and sugar and make of them a paste called sympathy.” Now cannot the Romani criticize us for once?! Or this: “Once I was guilty of thinking only good things happen. Then I was guilty of thinking they would never happen again. Now I wait and make no judgment. You ask me what I love....” Then the elderly Zoli names things so beautiful as fruit trees and walks, blue wool mittens, coffee, wind…..or a daughter’s first step.Now I must mention what has bothered me. When I was stuck in the mode of trying to learn about the life of Papsuza, I was extremely annoyed about the confusion and lack of clear facts concerning the transition from the Fascist to Communist powers in Slovakia. I thought the sentences were not clear. I wanted more dates and clear facts. I thought I would not understand history! But the message of how the Romani people suffered and how their lives were lived doesbecome clear without excessive dates and precise historical facts. You do get some. And in fact you do get the basics events of Papsuza’s life too! If you want more, look at this link: http://romani.uni-graz.at/rombase/cgi.... Look at her photo. She had an eye that “strayed”. Another complaint I had was how the narration switched from third person to first and back and forth. This is confusing. Zoli is spoken of in third person and also in the first person. I very much preferred when she spoke in the first person. I disliked when I read that she did that and she did this, when I wanted to get inside her head. Later, when she does speak in first person, that the narrator of the audiobook (Nigel Carrington) was a man, was disturbing. This really threw me off ....until I got used to it. I panicked and thought: “Who is speaking?! This is some man! Oh gosh, I am totally lost.” The dates and places jump. There is a beginning section by a journalist that is further confusing. I warn you, this is a book that is scarily confusing until you just plain relax and listen/read. You do end up understanding. Don’t panic, as I did! Originally I thought there was a conflict between the theme of the book and the writing style. But then when I got over my need to have full control and understanding of every sentence, when I let myself enjoy the words and philosophical questions, when I stopped demanding that I must learn some historical facts, that is when I realized I was totally enjoying myself. And I did learn a lot about Romani culture and suffering. About Papsuza too. I do highly recommend this book. **************Well, having been blown away by this author's Let the Great World Spin, I must immediately read another. The difficulty was choosing. This or Dancer or another?**************BEFORE READING:I might be annoyed by the mixture of fact and fiction. Maybe read instead: A False Dawn: Volume 16: My Life as a Gypsy Woman in Slovakia, which Christi told me about :0) . Zoli go inside Ebook A unique love story, a tale of loss, a parable of Europe, this haunting novel is an examination of intimacy and betrayal in a community rarely captured so vibrantly in contemporary literature Zoli Novotna, a young woman raised in the traveling Gypsy tradition, is a poet by accident as much as desire As 1930s fascism spreads over Czechoslovakia, Zoli and her grandfather fA unique love story, a tale of loss, a parable of Europe, this haunting novel is an examination of intimacy and betrayal in a community rarely captured so vibrantly in contemporary literature Zoli Novotna, a young woman raised in the traveling Gypsy tradition, is a poet by accident as much as desire As 1930s fascism spreads over Czechoslovakia, Zoli and her grandfather flee to join a clan of fellow Romani harpists Sharpened by the world of books, which is often frowned upon in the Romani tradition, Zoli becomes the poster girl for a brave new world As she shapes the ancient songs to her times, she finds her gift embraced by the Gypsy people and savored by a young English expatriate, Stephen Swann But Zoli soon finds that when she falls she cannot fall halfway neither in love nor in politics While Zoli s fame and poetic skills deepen, the ruling Communists begin to use her for their own favor Cast out from her family, Zoli abandons her past to journey to the West, in a novel that spans the 20th century and travels the breadth of Europe.Colum McCann, acclaimed author of Dancer and This Side of Brightness, has created a sensuous novel about exile, belonging and survival, based loosely on the true story of the Romani poet Papsuza It spans the twentieth century and travels the breadth of Europe In the tradition of Steinbeck, Coetzee, and Ondaatje, McCann finds the art inherent in social and political history, while vividly depicting how far one gifted woman must journey to find where she belongs.. Colum McCann is the author of two collections of short stories and four novels, including This Side of Brightness, Dancer and Zoli, all of which were international best sellers His newest novel Let the Great World Spin will come out in 2009 His fiction has been published in 26 languages and has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, GQ, Paris Review and other places He has written for numerous publications including The Irish Times, Die Zeit, La Republicca, Paris Match, The New York Times, the Guardian and the Independent In 2003 Colum was named Esquire magazine s Writer of the Year Other awards and honors include a Pushcart Prize, the Rooney Prize, the Irish Independent Hughes and Hughes Sunday Independent Novel of the Year 2003, and the 2002 Ireland Fund of Monaco Princess Grace Memorial Literary Award He was recently inducted into the Hennessy Hall of Fame for Irish Literature His short film Everything in this Country Must, directed by Gary McKendry, was nominated for an Academy Award Oscar in 2005 Colum was born in Dublin in 1965 and began his career as a journalist in The Irish Press In the early 1980 s he took a bicycle across North America and then worked as a wilderness guide in a program for juvenile delinquents in Texas After a year and a half in Japan, he and his wife Allison moved to New York where they currently live with their three children, Isabella, John Michael and Christian Colum teaches in Hunter College in New York, in the Creative Writing program, with fellow novelists Peter Carey and Nathan Englander Colum has completed his new novel, Let the Great World Spin It is scheduled for release in the U.S on June 23 rd, 2009 An extract was published in the Paris Review in fall 2008 The British and Irish release will be in August, while European publishers will quickly follow up in what amounts to an unprecedented international publication in September 2009 The novel begins in August 1974 as a tightrope walker makes his way through the dawn light across the World Trade Center towers, stunning thousands of watchers below Using the true story of Philippe Petit as a pull through metaphor, McCann crafts a portrait of the city and a people There s Corrigan, a radical young Irish monk, who struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the burning Bronx A group of mothers gather in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn the sons who died in Vietnam they soon discover how much divides them even in their grief Further uptown, Tillie, a 38 year old grandmother, turns tricks alongside her teenaged daughter, determined not only to take care of her babies but to prove her own worth Elegantly weaving together these and other seemingly disparate lives, McCann s powerful allegory of 9 11 comes alive in the unforgettable voices of the city s people, unexpectedly drawn together by hope, beauty, and the tightrope walker s artistic crime of the century McCann s most ambitious work to date, Let the Great World Spin has already been described as a triumphant American novel Let the Great World Spin will be published June 30th Advance copies will be available here on GoodReads. Bestseller Books Zoli A beautiful and harrowing novel by one of my favorite contemporary American authors. It traces the life of a female gypsy poet from the horrors of World War II, to the stultifying world of Communist Eastern Europe, to a dramatic escape to the West. We see so much of European history through the lens of this incredibly articulate, sensitive soul, all told with McCann's densely descriptive narrative intensity. For a taste of the prose, here's the opening sentence: "He drives along the small streambed, and the terrible shitscape looms up by increments--upturned buckets by the bend in the river, a broken baby carriage in the weeds, a petrol drum leaking out a dry tongue of rust, the carcass of a fridge in the brambles." It's been a while since I've read the book, but I still see that "tongue of rust" in my imagination, along with so much else in this brilliant book.
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