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Reviewed by:
  • Barbu Constantinescu. Cântece țigănești. Romané ghilea. Gypsy Songs by Julieta Rotaru and Viorel Cosma
  • Kimmo Granqvist (bio)
Barbu Constantinescu. Cântece țigănești. Romané ghilea. Gypsy Songs. Ediție critică, traducere în limba engleză, introducere, tabel cronologic, index și bibliografie de Julieta Rotaru, Prefață de Viorel Cosma [Critical edition, introductory study, chronology, index, and bibliography by Julieta Rotaru; forward by Viorel Cosma]. București: Editura Muzeul Literaturii Române. 2016. LXXX + 625 pp. 14 illustrations. ISBN 978–973–167–383–7

It has become a commonplace assertion that Romania,1 though it holds the largest Romani speaking population in Europe, does not have an atlas of the Romani dialects spoken therein, nor writings on Romani historical grammar. Unfortunately, apart from linguistics, works of synthesis are equally missing from these regions in other disciplines as well, when it comes to Roma issues.

I have lately published in the Newsletter of the Gypsy Lore Society, the announcement of a work in progress–together with the author of the book herewith under discussion–related to the discovery of a so far unknown Romanian-Romani vocabulary, the first of its kind, dated c.1860. The editing of this vocabulary looks like an enterprise of the twentieth century, while the twenty-first century should bring a reediting of such texts, together with critical evaluation underlined by a century of progress in Romani studies. It is the case, for instance–and I should not go far from our journal in finding a reference–that the first Spanish-Romani vocabulary is from the eighteenth century, edited in 1921 by J.M. Hill and reedited with ample critical notes by Ignasi-Xavier Adiego (1999).

The book under review, Cântece țigănești. Romané ghilea. Gypsy Songs, is a critical edition of one manuscript from a larger collection of unedited materials from the Library of the Romanian Academy, Bucharest. It is not even the edition of the whole manuscript BAR 3924, but only two of three notebooks, written by the first Romanian scholar of Romani studies, Barbu Constantinescu. The third notebook, as we learn from the editorial notes (p. LXXX), contains a Romani-Romanian vocabulary with entries for 26 letters of the Romani language adapted to the Romanian alphabet, which will be edited as a separate work. [End Page 150]

The collection of Barbu Constantinescu's manuscripts was known and partially used by researchers in the field, who referred to it in their works: Popp-Şerboianu (1930), George Potra (1939), Ion Chelcea (1944). A useful description of this collection is provided by Rotaru in the article published in the current issue of the journal. However, none of these manuscripts has been edited thus far, apart from BAR 3924, which has now been brought to light by Julieta Rotaru.

The so far published work of Barbu Constantinescu on Romani folklore is a collection of 75 songs and 15 story tales (Barbu Constantinescu 1878) in Romani and Romanian translation, the latter being translated in English by F.H. Groome (1899). This volume was never edited again until 2000, when Gheorghe Sarău published a Romani version in an interpretative orthography, and with many interventions on the text, without warning about the changes thus made. The Romanian translation of Barbu Constantinescu was replaced with a poetic, but far-fetched translation done by the editor. In 2005 a new edition of Barbu Constantinescu's 1878 collection was published, with the aim of producing a text faithful to the original version, in Romani and Romanian. To this, the editor, Mihaela Mudure, added her own English translation.

The volume under review brings to light 282 new songs, out of which only ten, in a slightly different version, were in the published collection from 1878.

In the following, I shall compare the translations of the song LV from the 1878 collection, translated by M. Mudure in 2002, with the song §165 translated by J. Rotaru in 2016. The text is reproduced from Rotaru: ghilí lăiașisko/ patrinorî ș-o lalea/ ita, Devla, kukola/ Kol romnea kola p<h>urea/ sî la trin șeya barea/ t<h>ai kam dav kol toveresa/ te p<h>agáu lakă / te ankalavau...


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