Collectively, Romedius Mungenast’s poems portray the sobering reality of growing up in a Yenish family mired in poverty and instability. The image of the alcoholic father who beats and assaults his wife pervades the poems. By contrast, the mother works hard selling baskets to feed her family only to face the debts her husband has accumulated in the pub and the violence that he inflicts on her when he returns home. Some aid comes from the church: one poem describes how the boy receives new clothes and shoes from the pastor and another refers to the bread, coffee and money obtained in the same way. The mayor, however, gives and does nothing; and the other villagers either make negative remarks or remain silent. The varying narrative voices, which include the first and third person as well as the dialogic, mirror generational shifts and tense interactions between Yenish and non-Yenish. While in ‘Jenische Reminiszenzen’ the children turn out to be beautiful, their father dies in an asylum and the mother in her bed. The death of the parents leads to the demise of the Yenish language within the family and hence brings only memories. In ‘Jenisches Liebesgedicht’, a Yenish boy and non-Yenish farmer’s daughter face resistance to their marriage from both families. Their only option is to make a life of their own somewhere else and never return.
Source of text samples
Nitsche, Gerald (ed.). 1990. Österreichische Lyrik und kein Wort Deutsch. Zeitgenössische Dichtung der Minoritäten. Innsbruck: Haymon Verlag, pp. 27–29; 34.