The Color of Smoke is the first great novel about Eastern European Roma written by a Romani author, a classic which explores the inner circumstances of the unknown world of the Roma and their history.
The novel, dubbed the One Hundred Years of Solitude of European Roma, depicts the life of the unnamed narrator from age of 11 to age of 17 in a Romani settlement in rural Hungary, just before the start of World War II and the holocaust. The place is ruled by tribal law and customs, the families have many children, theft, beggars, filth, hunger, disease and police brutality is commonplace. But at the same time, the community lives life to the fullest, joyously and noisily, having an enormous respect towards the earth and their ancestors.
When the boy accidentally gets shot by a well-to-do local, he gets a chance to go to school. He starts living in two different worlds: he is bright enough to do well in school, but to defined by his heritage to be fully accepted. As years go by, the boy turns to planning about making money, coming into conflict with authorities and dealing with adolescent needs, while fascism takes hold in society.
Drawing from his own experiences, Menyhért Lakatos wrote a buildungsroman about a boy’s journey into adulthood, but also a picaresque work which lists adventures page after page. It is also a novel about the tragedy of an entire nation, an authentic, naturalistic and honest depiction of the unique milleu and direct language of the Roma, large in volume but extraordinarily intimate novel which is considered a fundamental work of Romani literature and one of the most interesting Hungarian prose works.
“Picaresque and sometimes lascivious odyssey… Despite their suffering, Lakatos shows how the Roma people manage to survive, a moving ode to their ingenuity and courage.” – World Literature Today