Hungarian modern classic translated into Roma dialect

Imre Kertesz, photo: CTK

The famous novel "Fatelessness" by Hungary's Nobel-prize winning author, Imre Kertesz, is now also available in the Lovary language, the most widespread dialect among the Roma community in Hungary. The novel is about life in a World War Two concentration camp, and is translated by the renowned Romany poet and compiler of a Lovary-Hungarian dictionary, Gyorgy Rostas Farkas. The translation was launched on Holocaust Memorial Day. At around 12 million the Roma are the biggest minority in the enlarged Europe, and the Lovary dialect is so widely spoken, that the Hungarian Minister for Equal Opportunities, Katalin Levai, recently proposed in Brussels that it become an official EU language. Petra Hajdu of Radio Budapest talked to Katalin Levai.

Imre Kertesz,  photo: CTK
What prompted the translator of "Fatelessness" to translate this book into the Lovary language?

"This is one of the most famous books that the Nobel Prize winner Imre Kertesz wrote, and the translator thought it would be very good if the Roma population could read the text in their mother-tongue. So that's why he translated it into the Lovary language, which is spoken by about three hundred thousand people in Hungary."

Is there a chance that a lot of people will actually read this book?

"I hope so. It would be nice to have this because it's not enough for it just to be translated, but it's very important that it should reach people. So we offered help through the Roma Cultural Fund, that we will distribute the book among Roma people, so that they can get the book free. Then there's a bigger chance that they will read it."

Does the publishing of this book right now have anything to do with the commemoration of the Holocaust, which was Roma as well as Jewish?

"Yes, we remember the Holocaust - rightly so - that it was a tragedy of the Hungarian nation, but we all know that not only Jewish people were killed in the Holocaust, but there was a Roma Holocaust as well. These two tragedies can be remembered together, and this was the day of commemoration of the Holocaust, when the book was presented to the audience."

Has any feedback from the Roma community arrived so far, about the book?

"Some members of the Roma community present welcomed the idea. We have to mention that it was published by a Chinese publisher! [laughs]." So feedback so far is very positive, that we got from those people who were present at the memorial."

Are any other projects in store that would form a bridge between the Roma community and the Jewish community in Hungary?

"The Holocaust Memorial Centre was opened recently, and it contains elements of the Roma and the Jewish Holocaust as well. So it's a project that may be seen as a common project for the Roma population and the Jewish population."

Do you have any information about how the writer himself, Imre Kertesz, received the idea that one of his personal friends - Gyorgy Rostas Farkas - translated the book into the Lovary language?

"Yes, he was very happy about that, but unfortunately he couldn't take part in publishing the book. He welcomed it. His book has been translated into many, many languages, even Esperanto."