Life is busy in a big European city in the late 1930s, where Dromal, the head of his tribe, runs a wide range of business activities that aren’t always above board. It is not only his tribe who benefits from his operations, but also many leading citizens of the city.
Dromal’s tribe lives in an old, abandoned warehouse area on the outskirts of the city. His son Girin has begun to live in a wrecked car behind the bus station after having taken the outspoken widow, Fudurni, as his wife, despite the lack of acceptance by his community.
The main characters of the novel are the people of Dromal’s tribe, his daughter Ginarel and Kastalo, an orphan pickpocket raised on the streets. The poor and rootless Kastalo is not good enough to be a fiancé for the Gypsy princess Ginarel. Nonetheless, Kastalo has fallen for the girl.
Preparations are underway for the wedding of Ginarel and Bustan. Bustan is the son of the highly regarded blacksmith Joralo. Along with Bustan, Girin is given the responsibility to watch over his sister and to protect her from trouble and shame. When Kastalo’s infatuation is noticed, the boys come up with a way to benefit from the pickpocket.
When the Gypsies become the targets of the suffering caused by the emerging Nazi regime and its sadism, the prevailing relations of power within the tribe are put to a test. Emotions smoulder under the surface, people take measures as the Gypsies flee the ominous signs. The tribe’s long and troubled journey makes a man out of Kastalo; the former selfish thief grows into a young, responsible, respectful and unfailing member of the tribe. The love Ginarel cherishes for Kastalo is evident, but can it ever be fulfilled?
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“’ In Love and War’ is a spectacular melodrama in the shadows of fascism. Baltzar has always had an eye for drastic settings and sensually intense situations, exotic portraits, and erotic and cultural tensions. He is one of the most fascinating authors of the year.” - Hannu Waarala, Keskisuomalainen, 2008
“The crazy love that Kastalo has for the Gypsy princess Carinja belongs without a doubt amongst the greatest love stories. With a few dramaturgical moves it could be turned into a successful Hollywood movie script.” - Hannu Waarala, Savon Sanomat, 2008
“Baltzar’s tale has a strong core, it is entertaining in a cinematic way.” - Pekka Jaatinen, Kaleva, 2008
“Veijo Baltzar has written his far most important work and, at the same time, one of the most interesting Finnish books of this year.” - Hannu Niklander, Kaltio, 2008
“ ‘In Love and War’ brings forth the most forgotten European genocide. Out of the most disadvantaged and deprived nation, i.e. the Roma, the machinery of Nazi eugenics succeeded in destroying approximately 200,000 – 500,000 people, almost half of the population. Within these dimension, Baltzar is pointing in an extremely important direction.” - Veli-Pekka Leppänen, Helsingin Sanomat, 2008
Veijo Oskari Baltzar is a Finnish author, playwright and political activist – a cultural fighter on many fronts. He was born in 1942 near Kuopio, in East Finland. He has strong roots in the old parish of Rautalampi, where his ancestors arrived in the 16th century. Veijo O. Baltzar is proud of his ethnicity. His strong Roma identity and deep knowledge of cultures have provided him with firm and critical views on multicultural society.
The lifestyle of the wandering Gypsies was materially poor, but spiritually and socially very rich. Veijo Baltzar's father was a horseman, his mother a beggar and a craftswoman. He spent his childhood in wagons with his parents, six brothers, and four sisters. The nights were spent under the stars or in saunas and sheds. Hunger, cold, external persecution and fear were all familiar to them. Nonetheless, life itself with its grand emotions, security and love were strongly present in the family.
Baltzar’s parents were highly respected by both the Roma community and the majority. His father was a patriarch and philosopher who could not read. His mother was a cultivated person who was interested in classical literature. In the countryside, she taught people of the majority to read and even arranged literary meetings with her friend Liisa Peura, the richest woman in Kuopio. Even as a child, Veijo O. Baltzar attended these meetings and was strongly influenced by them.
Baltzar has served as a prominent figure in building bridges between the majority and minority populations of Finland. Since starting his literary and artistic career in the 1960s, he has discussed Gypsy culture and its relationship with the majority culture in more than 72 literary works, placing him in the position of the most remarkable literary voice of the nation. In his books, Baltzar introduces Gypsy culture in the spirit of world literature, great philosophers and religious traditions, forming a new kind of contemporary synthesis.
Baltzar has worked as a theatre director, having directed dozens of plays and taught at the Helsinki Theatre Academy. He is also an active visual artist.
1980 1st shared prize in the Golden Harp competition in Dublin for the television play The Red Garden (best manuscript)
1981 The Theatre Action of the Year prize. Awarded by the Finnish Theatre Centre.
1992 The Arts Award of the Province of Kuopio.
1991 The Culture Award of municipality of Rautalampi.
1999 The 3rd prize in the international “Amico Rom” competition. Lanciano, Italy.
2000 The 2nd prize in the international “Amico Rom” competition. Lanciano, Italy.
2002 The Arvo Turtiainen Literature Prize.
2008 The Mikael Agricola medal in honour of Baltzar’s 40-year literary career. Helsinki, Tammi publishers.
2011 The honorary title of Cultural Counsellor (kulttuurineuvos) awarded by the President of Finland Tarja Halonen.
2016 Finalist and honourable mention (international recognition for 50 years of activity on behalf of European Roma), European Roma Spirit Award (ERSA). Bratislava, Slovakia
2017 Life-long artist pension granted by Arts Promotion Centre Finland in recognition of artistic merit.
”Veijo Baltzar (born 1942) is a forerunner of Romani literature both in Finland and worldwide.” (Romarchive, 2019)