Romani Studies

Finding a voice: The Slovak-Roma woman writer in Irish and Czech fiction

Romani Studies (2020), 30, (2), 181–200.


The theory of minor literature (based on Kafka’s hybrid identity in Prague) is applicable to the complex case of Czech and Slovak-Romani writing, including fictional portrayals of the Roma. The Irish-American writer Colum McCann’s Zoli, published in 2006, features a Slovak-Roma woman who becomes an acclaimed poet under the Communist regime, only to be cast out by her community and forced into exile. Two years later, Irena Eliášová (a Roma writer born in Slovakia who lives in the Czech Republic) published her novel Our Settlement (Naše osada), a far more affectionate view of the Roma society of her childhood. Both writers walk an uneasy balance in presenting Slovak-Roma culture from both insider and outsider perspectives. In McCann’s case the intention of bringing one of Europe’s most misunderstood minorities to anglophone readers struggles to avoid cultural appropriation, while Eliášová’s use of multilingualism negotiates the power dynamics between Czech, Slovak, and Romani.

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