Zoli by Colum McCann
A Novel

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BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Colum McCann's TransAtlantic.

A unique love story, a tale of loss, a parable of Europe, this haunting novel is an examination of intimacy and betrayal in a community rarely captured so vibrantly in contemporary literature.

Zoli Novotna, a young woman raised in the traveling Gypsy tradition, is a poet by accident as much as desire. As 1930s fascism spreads over Czechoslovakia, Zoli and her grandfather flee to join a clan of fellow Romani harpists. Sharpened by the world of books, which is often frowned upon in the Romani tradition, Zoli becomes the poster girl for a brave new world. As she shapes the ancient songs to her times, she finds her gift embraced by the Gypsy people and savored by a young English expatriate, Stephen Swann.

But Zoli soon finds that when she falls she cannot fall halfway–neither in love nor in politics. While Zoli’s fame and poetic skills deepen, the ruling Communists begin to use her for their own favor. Cast out from her family, Zoli abandons her past to journey to the West, in a novel that spans the 20th century and travels the breadth of Europe.

Colum McCann, acclaimed author of Dancer and This Side of Brightness, has created a sensuous novel about exile, belonging and survival, based loosely on the true story of the Romani poet Papsuza. It spans the twentieth century and travels the breadth of Europe. In the tradition of Steinbeck, Coetzee, and Ondaatje, McCann finds the art inherent in social and political history, while vividly depicting how far one gifted woman must journey to find where she belongs.

About Colum McCann

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Colum McCann is the internationally bestselling author of the novels Zoli, Dancer, This Side of Brightness, and Songdogs, as well as two critically acclaimed story collections. His fiction has been published in thirty languages. He has been a finalist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and was the inaugural winner of the Ireland Fund of Monaco Literary Award in Memory of Princess Grace. He has been named one of Esquire's "Best and Brightest," and his short film Everything in This Country Must was nominated for an Oscar in 2005. A contributor to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Paris Review, he teaches in the Hunter College MFA Creative Writing Program. He lives in New York City with his wife and their three children.
Published December 10, 2008 by Random House. 370 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Zoli

Kirkus Reviews

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McCann traces the trajectory of a Gypsy poet's exile.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Zoli: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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In his bittersweet fourth novel, McCann chronicles the imperiled world of the Slovakian Roma (Gypsies, to their enemies) from World War II through the establishment of the Communist bloc. After the

Oct 30 2006 | Read Full Review of Zoli: A Novel

The New York Times

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Colum McCann configures his vision with characters, compellingly voiced, who, if larger than life, are specifically and vividly alive.

Jan 08 2007 | Read Full Review of Zoli: A Novel

Entertainment Weekly

Thanks to her Das Kapital-toting grandfather, however, 6-year-old Zoli soon learns to read and write, and eventually becomes a singer and a poet acclaimed by the wider world — a world that .

Jan 12 2007 | Read Full Review of Zoli: A Novel


When Czechoslovakia is liberated by the Russians at war's end, Zoli is in her early 20s, and is becoming a symbol of the country's movement toward socialism.At this point McCann introduces the character of Stephen Swann, a half-Slovak Marxist and publisher who considers Zoli the perfect proletar...

Sep 09 2014 | Read Full Review of Zoli: A Novel

Bookmarks Magazine

While painting detailed strokes of the political tumult of the mid- to late-20th century, from the Nazis to the Communists to the fall of the Berlin Wall, Zoli also personalizes the plights of individuals through different narrators, including an elderly Zoli.

Aug 21 2007 | Read Full Review of Zoli: A Novel

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