Zoli

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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  1. 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

808 Reply to “Zoli”

  1. 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, [...]


  2. I enjoyed this a lot for its window on Romany Gypsy culture in Slovakia from the 30 s to the 50 s and its portrait of the life of a fictional poet trying to put a voice to her people A for the effort by an American author in trying to portray such a girl and woman from a first person perspective, but B for not quite succeeding in making her come alive for me Maybe that s inevitable for such an alien and closed off culture, so I still recommend the book for taking me the distance.The story most d [...]


  3. 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 Roma [...]



  4. What would possess a white Irish male writer to write a novel about a Romani woman from 1930s Czechoslovakia Darned if I know, but this is a rich tale of Romani life, racism, literary awakening cum appropriation, and most of all human grit Colum McCann did tons of research, but importantly he has shaped his protagonist, Zoli, with trademark sensitivity and masterful prose.After her parents and several other members of their Romani caravan were murdered by the secret police in fascist Czechoslov [...]


  5. This is the story of Zoli, a Romany woman of the 20th century Hunted by the Fascists and Nazis, robbed of culture by the Communists and liberal European intellectuals, persecuted, despised, displaced, pitied, studied, Zoli s story is the story of the Roma people But, Zoli is also a gifted poet and singer who tries to exist in both worlds, Roma and European and can find a home in neither The voice of Zoli is magnificently simple, broken yet full of dignity, intimate and unknowable I loved this no [...]


  6. What a daring ideaace the life of a Roma poetess from early life under fascist rule in the dying democracy of Czechoslovakia to dying years in the utterly different but equally repressive Free World that doesn t like her unrepentant socialism her own voice.McCann s up to the task It s a very well built book, and Zoli a boy s name in her culture, given by her grandfather to help protect her is a fully realized person She lives an exciting life She writes amazing poetry so we re told She has a dau [...]


  7. I loved this book I started reading it on the airplane journey home from Vienna after a long weekend and a previous novel by Josef Roth immersed in the Hapsburg empire It felt very appropriate The book creates a rich atmosphere of the nomadic lifestyle of gypsies during and after World War II in the areas of what once was the Austro Hungarian empire The book also takes place in part during the transition years of communism in what is today Slovakia I learned much about the Romani lifestyle and t [...]


  8. a quote, to live by wash your dress in running water dry it on the southern side of a rock let them have four guesses and make them all wrong take a fistful of snow in the summer heat cook haluski in hot sweet butter drink cold milk to clean your insides be careful when you wake breathing lets them know how asleep you are don t hang your coat from a hook in the door ignore curfew remember weather by the voice of the wheel do not become the fool they need you to become change your name lose your [...]


  9. Colum McCann is a magician with words and while I didn t like Zoli as much as I liked Dancer and Let the Great World Spin, I still found myself mesmerized by Zoli and her world The research that must have gone in to this for an Irishman to recreate the world of a Gypsy in eastern Europe during the middle part of the last century is incomprehensible to me The book bogged down a bit somewhere in the middle, but the last quarter or so was so strong I ve got two novels of his left to read before I [...]



  10. McCann, a novelist so good that both Ireland and America claim him as their own, is the author most recently of Let the Great World Spin Zoli is McCann s sixth work of fiction and the one that immediately preceded Let the Great World Spin What the two novels have in common, as does This Side of Brightness, McCann s second novel, which are the three I ve read so far, are an historical setting, a collage of narrative voices, a recurring theme of multi cultural migrant peoples, and a strong sense o [...]


  11. Colum McCann, a very gifted writer, must have sought out or stumbled upon the story of a Romani Gypsy woman who, against convention, learns to read and write and sings her own poems to wide acclaim McCann turns this into a novel, good enough despite the feel that it came from library research such is his talent.A book will be than worth the effort, however, if the author a makes you think about or see a thing in a way you never saw it before and b says something so profound, clever or just damn [...]


  12. Perhaps one day I ll finish this book if I somehow stop having access to other books, am holed up in my house, and have an ample supply of happiness and comfort to get me through the last tiny bit I have left I m perhaps one chapter from the end, but the thing got so unimaginably depressing in the last half that I think I m finally making the decision to call it quits Reading it has become like slogging through a field with no foliage except densely packed stinging nettles It s painful and terri [...]


  13. Uh oh I m about a hundred pages in, and the only character that did anything for me just bit it I might come back to this seeing as how I bought it , but for now I m enacting the life s too short to forcefeed yerself a book ya don t like rule I had high hopes, too, after Let The Great World Spin.


  14. I had heard my roommate talk about Papusza, the Gypsy poet whom inspired this novel, after he returned from a trip to the Balkans last summer Something or other brought the novel back to my attention and I ordered a copy from After about two weeks I sat down and read the introduction I was transfixed a man drives into a gypsy village in the present day, plies them with cigarettes, liquor, money, etc eventually earning their trust, he thinks, so he can interview them When he asks about Papusza th [...]


  15. Couldn t put this one down Fascinating story of the Roma gypsies encapsulated through the story of a Roma woman, Zoli, with a gift for song and poetry The story is very loosely based on that of Papusza, a famous Roma singer and poet The story begins in 1930s Czechoslovakia where Zoli s family are drowned by the fascists driving them onto ice, which then breaks beneath their weight Zoli and her grandfather escape and find refuge with another kumpanija musicians all The horrible WWII years pass, t [...]


  16. What an accessible and interesting read about Slovakia in the 1930s 1950s We meet Zoli as a young Romany girl travelling with her grandfather in Slovakia before WWII breaks out We follow her for a while as her life changes Then we meet other characters how have a profound impact on her life post war as they put her forward as a poster girl for Socialist Slovakia, which no one realises at the time only afterwards we can see it s so obvious was just a dream.Zoli is put up as the perfect socialist [...]


  17. In his acknowledgements, McCann writes that We get our voices from the voices of others This struck me because it s so much of what this compelling novel is about Zoli is remarkable because of her voice, her stories of Gypsy culture and history In the 1939s, when the novel begins, it s unheard of for a Gypsy woman to read, much less write and, only because of the tumultuous times she s living through is she celebrated for sharing her voice.But at what price Similarly the rise of communism in Cze [...]


  18. Really had trouble caring about the characters despite caring deeply for story The prose is, of course, beautiful given how McCann narrates but something is lost I think, perhaps, that it is a really bold move to do lots of research pertaining to fiction It s wasn t so much that it was fact overload or that McCann was trying to get the backdrop just right I think at times he was perfectly lost in his story about a gifted gypsy to not burden us with that However, maybe he was a little too lost an [...]


  19. Continuing on my McCann kick Found this book an excellent foray into portraying the lives of Slovakian Romani people before, during, and after WWII Harrowing images of persecution, destruction, and the fickleness of post war Communism Loved the main character of Zoli McCann s writing gave an excellent sense of what her life was like at every stage, and how her fame as a singer was manipulated by the state Watching her cast first as a great heroine of her people and then as a great betrayer was h [...]


  20. This is the first book I have read by Colum McCann His style took a little getting used to because it s poetic or symbolic to a certain degree This was the first of anything I have ever read about the Romani or Gypsy culture, so perhaps the writing style was to reflect their viewpoint It is about a poetess, Zoli I enjoyed this book I felt like I was with her on her travels and saw what she saw Even though a lot of the book discusses scenery, and there is not a lot of action or many characters, i [...]


  21. Two and a half stars.There are certainly a lot of good things to be said about this book It s a National Book Award Winner It s well written, with short, eloquent sentences that were clearly labored over It s about subject matter a wandering, persecuted gypsy poet that not a lot of books have mined.My main problem was that I did not find the story interesting or compelling at all I was not, at any point, curious about how the story would end, or about what would happen next I found the constantl [...]


  22. With his beautifully written prose, McCann conveys a story about the Romany community in Eastern Europe over a period of decades Thru Zoli you experience the joy and heartache of being different,assimilation, and the excruciating pain of exile While I am glad that I read this book, it was disappointing that the characters were not fully developed That is where the book fell short for me.



  23. Pokus v i sa do r mskej du e i to vy lo nevy lo, neviem pos di , ke e som e te ni od r mskej autorky ra ne tal a tak veru neviem ako a o je to r mska du a No ako sa p e v z vere nej t dii, vraj moc nie I ke mus m poveda , e snaha je, v skum r mskej ot zky tie prebehol autor kontaktoval Laca z nad cie M ime ku a in ch odborn kov In pir ciou mu bola po sk r mska spev ka Dej je spo iatku dynamick a pln vec , ktor som v bec nepoznal a ak vezmem v vahu, e sa to cel odohr valo v slovensk ch re li ch z [...]


  24. Colum McCann finds the world to be a dark, seedy place where nothing good can last At least, that s what I think he feels after reading or trying to read two of his books Last year I read Let the Great World Spin, as a part of my effort to read male authors, and literary fiction Reading that review now, I can see that my feelings on McCann s writing are very similar now, having tried unsuccessfully to read his novel Zoli.Here is what has to say about the plot of Zoli, A unique love story, a ta [...]


  25. There is an old Romani song that says we share little pieces of our heart with people and the further we go along, the less we have for ourselves until there is not enough left to go round and that s called travelling, and it s also called death, and since it happens to us all there s nothing ordinary than that Zoli is the third book I have read by Irish writer Colum McCann following Everything In My Country Must and This Side of Brightness and the one that made me finally understand why McCann [...]


  26. Zoli, influenced by her Grandfather, goes against tradition and learns to read and write She s an independent thinker and a natural lyricist resulting in her gaining popularity as a poet and singer Not only does she defy tradition by finding herself in a mutual attraction with a non Gypsy man, but against her wishes, he publishes her artistic works leading to her banishment by her people Thus, begins her journey across war torn lands stumbling from one terrible circumstance to another until fina [...]


  27. The central character in this novel is Zoli, a Romani singer and poet, whose life story was inspired by that of Papsuza, the Polish Gypsy Poet It begins in Czechoslovakia in the 1930 s when fascism spreads throughout Europe Zoli is unique in her Romani community, as she was taught to read and write by her grandfather Women in her culture were rarely educated, usually being married off at an early age frequently to men much older than themselves Initially she achieves fame for singing the ancient [...]


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