The book begins with the author’s introduction and his vision about the origin of the Gypsies. Born from a mare, a dark and temperamental young man encounters prejudices and persecution everywhere due to his different looks and character. People start calling him a Gypsy with the intention of insulting him. But over time the young man starts to love the name ‘Gypsy’ – it begins to sound beautiful to him and so he makes it the core of his identity.
The first Gypsy bears children and thus the Gypsy people and nation are born. To his descendants he becomes Phuro, the authority and leader of all Gypsies. In the novel itself, Phuro appears as the mythical ancestor who laid down the laws, traditions and spiritual basis of the Gypsies and their customs, which are either respected and followed or transgressed.
The novel tells the story of two families living in a big city that has recently been ravaged by war. From the Gypsy perspective, the city is ruled by the aged Roma patriot Mofal and his younger brother Marfalo. As the eldest son, Mofal is in the position of the leader of the family and the clans, despite the city being divided equally between the two brothers.
The children of Marfalo and Mofal grow up together. Mofal and Marfalo’s eldest sons, Carajan and Zoran, call themselves blood brothers. The Gypsy quarter, the area surrounding the market square of the city, has traditionally been a common territory, but this soon begins to change. In order to secure Carajan’s future, Mofal intends to gift him this part of the town, which is the best area for livelihoods and trade. This leads to dissatisfaction among Marfalo’s family. For Zoran, Carajan now appears as an insurmountable competitor. The relations between the cousins become tense, which further erodes relations between the brothers Mofal and Marfalo.
The situation is not made any easier by the fact that Carajan and his cousin Gimara are falling in love with each other. In addition to the inappropriateness of being close relatives, they represent the most powerful families in the Roma tribe, making their relationship unacceptable in the eyes of the Roma. Zoran tells Carajan to leave his sister alone and with his mother they try to get Gimara to marry Bagro, the son of rich Fargo - the king of cards who runs a casino in the port of the city. Fargo represents “new status”, with wealth but no real authority within the community. A battle of power, conspiration and plotting takes place among the Gypsies of the city, escalating into a fateful and irreversible series of events.
Employing its large gallery of characters, the novel introduces the whole spectrum of Roma culture with its multiple levels and hierarchies. Phuro concentrates on depicting the process of change that takes place when the new and old cultures meet; when the relationship with one’s own tradition disintegrates, and greed and envy take over.
Slovakian language rights sold in Slovakia
“The best qualities in the novel are its visual style, rhythm and the characters' poignant style of speaking.” - Irja Sinivaara, Kymen Sanomat, 2000
“Baltzar has succeeded in capturing something universal abut the Gypsies in this book. In one book, he has packed incredible feeling and the deepest essence of Gypsy culture, which is very hard for a non-Gypsy to experience. --. All the soulfulness and temperament are so strongly present in the book that its feeling does not freeze on its pages but rises up in the air almost like nuggets of gold.” - Anette Åkerlund, Keski-Uusimaa, 2000
“The story of Phuro has not been tied to any historical time or place. This gives the book a fairytale-like, almost lyrical mood. --. The best and most interesting part of Phuro is the vivid description of modern nomads.” - Sanna Kajander-Ruuth, Ilta-Sanomat, 2000
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)