Thursday, August 14, 2008

Top ten literary Gypsies

Jessica Duchen's most recent novel is Hungarian Dances.

For the Guardian, she named her top 10 literary Gypsies.

She writes: "It's fascinating that century after century, Gypsies are both the most romanticised people on earth and the most vilified: this is almost as much the case now as it was two centuries ago. Writers, of course, have been milking the situation for donkey's years. My second novel, Hungarian Dances, tells the story of a British-born violinist, Karina, whose discovery of hidden truths about her Hungarian family history and her formidable grandmother Mimi's Roma background challenges her own sense of identity."

One Gypsy on Duchen's list:
Esmeralda in Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Esmeralda, her story set in Paris in 1482, is as archetypal as Carmen – maybe more so, as Hugo endows this Gypsy dancer with a nearly Christ-like quality. An orphaned girl of almost superhuman kindness and the sufferer of a desperate unrequited love, she's first glorified and later destroyed by the crowd that loves her dancing, but succumbs to hysteria when accusing her of witchcraft. She's victimised, humiliated by the man she loves, and finally killed when she chooses death in preference to a loveless marriage. Hugo's saga exemplifies the romantic fascination for Gypsies as exotic sex symbols on the one hand and hapless victims of superstition and prejudice on the other; and Quasimodo, helping Esmeralda to sanctuary in the cathedral, finds redemption through his compassion for her.
Read about another title on Duchen's list.

--Marshal Zeringue