Posts Tagged ‘Tzigane’

I have wanted to read ‘Batchalo‘ by Michaël Le Galli and Arnaud Bétend, for a long time, and today I took it down from my bookshelf and read it in one breath.

In February 1939, a caravan of Tzigane gypsies (Hungarian gypsies) come and camp in the outskirts of a small village in Bohemia. They visit that village regularly to sell the beautiful stuff they make. But this time, a couple of children in the village go missing. The villagers suspect the tziganes. When the villages visit the tziganes to ask about it, they discover that the tziganes are closing camp and leaving. This leads to suspicions that the tziganes might have stolen their children. But after some questioning, the tziganes reveal that some of their own children who have been playing with the village children have gone missing too, and so they are going in search of the missing children. The village policeman, Josef, who is also the narrator of the story, joins them, because his own son is one of the missing children. What adventures befall the tziganes and Josef? Are they able to find the missing children? The answers to these are revealed in the rest of the story.

Batchalo‘ is a beautiful, poignant, heartbreaking story. It is an account of the life and the culture and the mythology of the gypsies – a community who don’t belong to any country, who have their own culture and beliefs, and who believe in freedom and living under the open sky – how the Nazis try suppressing them, and what happens in the aftermath. We see the events unfolding through the eyes of Josef, the policeman. Though I liked Josef, my favourite character was Silenka, the gypsy medicine woman and witch who takes Josef under her wing. She is strong, inspiring, fearless, and speaks her mind. The sepia-tinted artwork by Arnaud Bétend is exquisite and is a visual treat which sets a melancholic, atmospheric tone to the story. I read that it took him four years to complete the artwork featured in the book.

I loved ‘Batchalo‘. It is one of my favourite graphic novels. I want to read more about the European gypsy community and the Tzigane community now. I am sharing the first few pages of the book, so that you can get a feel for its artwork and atmospheric tone.

Have you read ‘Batchalo‘? What do you think about it?

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