“Roma Tales” by Alexander Klein

On April 8, 2010, on the International Romani Day, Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial” released a collection of fairy tales in Roma language (with translation into Russian) by Alexander Klein and a compact disc with the author’s reading of his book. The work of Klein was highly appreciated by Lev Cherenkov, a senior researcher at the Russian Scientific Research Institute for Cultural and Natural Heritage named after Dmitry Likhachov.

He writes:

A person who reads these “Roma Tales” for the first time feels amazed. At first I wrote “fairy tales”, but then I thought that the word “bikes” (as the author uses this original Roma name for these tales) is more suitable for defining the genre of this book. It is an amazing combination of fairy tales, which are so much loved by Roma people, with legends and true stories, which are also typical of Roma folklore. When reading the “tales”, you forget that they were written by the author. The overall impression is that these fabulous fairy and half-true stories were told on a summer evening somewhere near the campfire, around which respectable men, old people and curious youths gathered. One can feel that Alexander Klein himself was a vivid example of a lively Romani traditional culture. Alas, this tradition is now under threat of gradually disappearing from Roma life under the pressure of rather poor creations of the so-called “mass culture”, which have a particularly negative impact on Roma children and young people. Therefore, the publication of this collection of stories by Alexander Klein can have a positive effect of popularizing, preserving and even reviving, if you like, the Roma folklore tradition of oral stories and tales. Just a few words about the language of this book. They are presented in a Romani dialect, which is called the “Polish Roma” or “Lotifitka Roma”, common in Western Belarus and the bordering areas of Eastern Latvia (Latgale). This dialect is understandable to the Russian Roma of the North-Western part of Russia (same as Russians can understand Belarusian language). For the first time, the language of this ethnic group is presented in writing. In general, the author coped with the difficult task of transferring the peculiarities of his native dialect by means of the Russian alphabet. The writing is clear and easy to read. Hopefully, we will see more published works by Alexander Klein”.