The chapter in Simone Schönett’s novel Im Moos introduces readers to the protagonist Jana, who is the only member of a Yenish family to show any real interest in the origins of the Yenish language and culture. As a child, Jana notices the strange language her family speaks. She questions why non-Yenish cannot comprehend what Jana later learns is a ‘secret language’ related to the family’s livelihood of selling door-to-door and thus, ultimately, to their survival. Jana befriends a Yenish poet in Switzerland who tells her about the persecution that the Yenish encountered first under National Socialism and then later, when, under government measures, Yenish children were put in special homes or schools to put a stop to the travelling way of life.
In pursuing information about her heritage, Jana represents the shift from the older patriarch to the younger female family member intent on carrying on the ‘secret’ Yenish language and hidden stories.
Source of text sample
Schönett, Simone. 2002. Im Moos. Weitra: Bibliothek der Provinz, pp. 30–36