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Zoli by Colum Mccann


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A major new novel about a gypsy woman exiled for betraying her people, from the prize-winning author of DANCER

If you like Colum Mccann you might also like to read books by Donal Ryan, Belinda McKeon and John Boyne.


Zoli by Colum Mccann

The novel begins in Czechoslovakia in the early 1930s when Zoli, a young Roma girl, is six years old. The fascist Hlinka guards had driven most of her people out onto the frozen lake and forced them to stay there until the spring, when the ice cracked and everyone drowned - Zoli's parents, brothers and sisters. Now she and her grandfather head off in search of a 'company'. Zoli teaches herself to read and write and becomes a singer, a privileged position in a gypsy company as they are viewed as the guardians of gypsy tradition. But Zoli is different because she secretly writes down some of her songs. With the rise of the Nazis, the suppression of the gypsies intensifies. The war ends when Zoli is 16 and with the spread of socialism, the Roma are suddenly regarded as 'comrades' again. Zoli meets Stephen Swann, a man with whom she will have a passionate affair, but who will also betray her. He persuades Zoli to publish some of her work. But when the government try to use Zoli to help them in their plan to 'settle' gypsies, her community turns against her. They condemn her to 'Pollution for Life', which means she is exiled forever. She begins a journey that will eventually lead her to Italy and a new life. Zoli is based very loosely on the true story of the Gypsy poet, Papsuza, who was sentenced to a Life of Pollution by her fellow Roma when a Polish intellectual published her poems. But Colum has turned this into so much more - it's a brilliantly written work that brings the culture and the time to life.


"A great book and a marvellously crafted story. I loved the different angles, the images and the depiction of the Roma. This is life without being sentimental or defensive." Roddy Doyle

"Grim, poetic and beautifully observed" Toby Clements, Telegraph

'If a writer's highest calling is to imagine what it is to be 'other', then Colum McCann is a giant amongst us - fearless, huge-hearted, a poet with every living breath' Peter Carey

About the Author

Colum Mccann

Colum McCann was born in Dublin in 1965. His fiction has won numerous international awards including the Rooney Prize, the Ireland Fund of Monaco Princess Grace Memorial Award, a Pushcart Prize, and Esquire magazine's Writer of the Year award in 2003. In 2005 he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Film. He was recently inducted into the Hennessy Hall of Fame in Dublin. His work has been published in twenty-six languages. He has travelled widely and is based in New York, where he lives with his wife and children.

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Book Info

Publication date

13th June 2007


Colum Mccann

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Author's Website


Orion Publishing Co


384 pages


Literary Fiction
Reading Groups
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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