Klaus-Michael Bogdal

Europe Invents the Gypsies - A Story of Fascination and Contempt

(German title: Europa erfindet die Zigeuner)
ca. 592 pages
Klaus-Michael Bogdal
Foto: Klaus-Michael Bogdal
© Jürgen Bauer

Klaus-Michael Bogdal studied philosophy and German and Slavic literature. He teaches at the University of Bielefeld, where he has been professor of Germanic language and literature since 2002.

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Russia (LRC Publishing House), Hungary (Kalligram), Croatia (Zagrebacka Naklada),

Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding in 2013


Natural born thieves and liars, companions of Satan, backwoodsmen, untameable savages, a pack of antisocial outsiders – These are just some of the terms used to ostracise and marginalise Europe’s Romani population over the past 600 years. In this brilliantly researched, comparative study, Klaus-Michael Bogdal tells the story of how this centuries-old hatred was able to survive in the tension between fascination and contempt right down to the present day.

In this compelling and accessible history, Bogdal shows how Europeans have continually sought to maintain the greatest possible distance from this despised people at the bottom of the social hierarchy. None of the various social and political orders under which they have lived has allowed them finally to arrive in Europe. Always unwelcome, they have been subject to constant persecution and marginalisation ever since their arrival 600 years ago: in the imaginary space of art as well as in the political reality.
The book presents the history of the representation of ›gypsies‹ in European literature and art from the late middle ages to the present – from Norway to Spain, from Britain to Russia. Bodgal draws on documents ranging from early chronicles and legal documents, to works of art and ethnography, to the memory of the Holocaust amongst the Sinti and Roma.


Jury Statement from the 2013 Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding:
»The 2013 Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding is awarded to the literary scholar Klaus-Michael Bogdal (Bielefeld) for his groundbreaking work Europe Invents the Gypsies, which explores six centuries of persecution and marginalisation of Sinti and Roma in Europe. Bogdal’s study is the first comprehensive, comparative analysis of the representation of ‘Gypsies’, ‘Zigeuner’, ‘Bohémiens’ and ‘Gitanos’ in European literature and art from the late middle ages to the present. It traces the gradual formation of an historical prejudice against an imaginary collective, which, lacking writers of its own, was helpless in the face of the interpretations, ascriptions and projections of others. Bogdal demonstrates how Europe secured its own status as civilised and cultivated by denigrating the Roma through a combination of hatred, fear and romanticised gypsy-folklore. Particularly in the light of the current resurgence of antiziganism in Europe, Bogdal’s landmark study is especially timely and urgent.«