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Conceptually, the category of "literature" throughout human history has espoused many diverse nuances in definition. In its most conventional sense, it has referred to a body of work that reflects specific artistic characteristics elevating it to a special class of written expression. It has tended to be classified by historical period, country, language, culture, and genre types. Genres in the Western tradition include the epic, poem, play, short story, and novel, but literary value has likewise been ascribed to others such as essays, memoirs, biographies, philosophical treatises and religious texts. Histories of literary expression worldwide reveal the consistently important position of poetry traditionally. The value of literary works is often assessed in terms of observable criteria like form, structure, compelling writing, literary devices and techniques, as well as shared conventions and priorities, all of which allow them to be defined in accordance with a specific style or genre. Conventions and a vocabulary of specialized terminology allow literary critics and literary theorists to classify works of literary art and, generally, to arrive at a consensus as to their merit and worth. The criteria they choose, depending on literary philosophies and ideologies, schools of thought and affiliated methodologies, assist them in interpreting and evaluating aesthetics and innovation. These processes are reinforced by other means. Literary circles, salons, book clubs, associations, magazines, patronage, sponsorship, competitions and prizes serve as validation mechanisms, all of which have an impact on how canons, classics, educational curricula, and cultural knowledge are determined and shaped. In addition to endorsing orally transmitted cultural knowledge, the 20th c. was crucial for admitting "subjectivity" into discussions on literature. Importance is accorded to readers, who ultimately are complicit in the act of creating textual meaning by their active roles as readers and interpreters of texts. Finally, availability and access to literary works is another factor critical for shaping knowledge and culture within societies, whether historically as copied manuscripts or in contemporary times as downloadable free ebooks.
Romani literature as a category is not always easy to define. The term Romani "literatures", in the plural, has been proposed by some as a more accurate representation of literary production. Others, such as the scholar Milena Hübschmannová, underscore the centuries-old oral tradition within Romani communities, which only recently has yielded its power and force to the written word, transforming the "Romani art of beautiful words" (Romano šukar laviben) into the subtle nuances of new forms of creation. As in the case of the other arts, Romani writers hail from many diverse countries and write in different national languages and Romani dialects. Anthologizing Romani literary writers according to certain criteria of style, aesthetics, genre, historical period, language or geographical area, is already underway in several publications. One of the first manifestations of literary (and theatrical) production materialized during the period of the post-October Revolution Soviet Union. The Russian Romani literary and theatre wave of the 1920s and 1930s include such writers as Alexander Vyacheslavovich Germàno, Nina Alexandrovna Dudarova, and Mikhail Bezliudsko, among others. Another literary landmark came in the mid-20th c., with the emergence of the poetry of the Polish Romani woman Papùśza (Bronisława Wajs), transcribed and translated by the Polish poet Jerzy Ficowski. The late 1960s and 1970s, especially after the Prague Spring, ushered in a more prolific period of literary production that had its roots in eastern European and Balkan countries, but which continued elsewhere, up until this day. They include, among many others, writers from: the Slovak Republic (Elena Lacková, Dezider Banga; Czech Republic (Margarita Reisnerová); Kosovo (Kujtim Paćaku, Ali Krasnići); Serbia (Slobodan Berberski, Rajko Đurić, Jovan Nikolić); Hungary (József "Choli" Daróczi, Károly Bari, Menyhért Lakatos, Béla Osztojkán); Latvia/Russia (Leksa Manuś); Belarus (Valdemar Kalinin); Romania (Luminiţa Cioabă), Bulgaria (Sali Ibrahim); Spain/France (Matéo Maximoff); France (Sandra Jayat, Luis Ruiz, Roberto Lorier, Lick, Esmeralda Romanez); Finland (Veijo Baltzar); Germany (Philomena Franz); Macedonia (Muharem Serbezovski, Ljatif Demir, Iliaz Śaban, Šaip Jusuf); Bosnia - Herzegovina (Hedina Sijerčić); Bosnia/Italy (Rasim Sejdić); Italy (Alexian Santino Spinelli); Serbia/Austria (Ilija Jovanović); Austria (Johann Horvath, Ceija Stojka); Switzerland (Mariella Mehr); Spain (José Heredia Maya, Joaquín Albaicín); United Kingdom (Glyn Bramwell Evens-Romany, Charlie Smith); Sweden (Katharina Taikon); Canada (Ronald Lee) and the United States (Ian Hancock). Most of these writers are also active translators. Romani writers have been anthologized, for example, in Rromane Lila-Cigány Levelek-Rromani Letters (2003), Антология на ромската поезия-Antologija e Romane Poezijake-Anthology of Roma Poetry (2002), Baxtaló Divès. Antologia a cura di Santino Spinelli (2001), and Romane Poetongi Antologia (1995). The first international Romani anthology in English, The Roads of the Roma: A PEN anthology of Gypsy writers, edited by Ian Hancock, Siobhan Dowd and Rajko Đurić was published in 1998. The International Romani Writers Association (IRWA) was founded in 2002. Many newsletters, magazines and newspapers have been published, some sporadically, through various associations and organizations. They also tend to include excerpts from literary works and poetry. The most well-known Romani poetry contest is the annual Concorso Artistico Internazionale "Amico Rom" in Italy.
Bakker, Peter and Hristo Kyuchukov (eds), Publications in Romani useful for Romani language education, 2003.
Books LLC (2010), Romani Literature: Romani Poetry, Romani Writers, Memphis: Books LLC.
Courthiade, Marcel (2007), La Littérature des Rroms, Sintés et Kalés. Compendium à l`usage des étudiants de l`INALCO, Paris: INALCO.
Courthiade, Marcel and Jeanne Gamonet (eds), "La Littérature des Rroms, Sintés et Kalés." Missives (Paris: Société littéraire de La Poste et de France Télécom, 2002).
Đurić, Rajko (2002), Die Literatur der Roma und Sinti, Berlin: Edition Parabolis.
Ion Cioaba Foundation, "Rroma Writers", Romania. online.
Kovacshazy, Cécile (ed), "Littératures Romani : Construction ou Réalité ?", vols 1 and 2 (Nos. 36 and 37), Études tsiganes (Paris: Études Tsiganes, 2009).
Provot, Bernard (ed), "Littérature Romani," (4) Études tsiganes (Paris: Études Tsiganes, 1991).
ROMBASE, "Literature", University of Graz, Austria. Available online.
Williams, Patrick (ed), "La littérature des Tsiganes. Les Tsiganes de la littérature.", vol. 9, Études tsiganes (Paris: Études Tsiganes, 1997)
Mai lashi tiri ryat (Kalderash)
Lačhi jrat (Gurbeti)
Lashi ratyi! (Lovari)
Sukar/Latchi ci rat (Xoraxane)