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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Little Fingers

Filip Florian

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To purchase Little Fingers

Title: Little Fingers
Author: Filip Florian
Genre: Novel
Written: 2005 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 202 pages
Original in: Romanian
Availability: Little Fingers - US
Little Fingers - UK
Little Fingers - Canada
Little Fingers - India
Kleine Finger - Deutschland
Dita mignole - Italia
  • Romanian title: Degete mici
  • Translated by Alistair Ian Blyth

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Our Assessment:

B : intriguing look at (post-)communist Romania

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . 9/4/2009 Judith Leister
NZZ . 16/12/2008 Uwe Stolzmann
Publishers Weekly . 25/5/2009 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Ein verspielter Text (streckenweise vielleicht arg ambitioniert), in dem das Grauenvolle gern ins Groteske umschlägt. Es geht um verdrängte Schuld, natürlich. Und um das allgemeine Misstrauen nach dem Ende einer Tyrannei. Bestechend ist die Idee, Gewaltregime verschiedener Galaxien zu vergleichen." - Uwe Stolzmann, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "Many characters and overlapping stories can cause confusion but never boredom" - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Little Fingers turns -- very loosely -- around the discovery of a mass grave near an archaeological dig at the spa resort W. in contemporary Romania. It's a "bottomless pit" writes one newspaper -- and journalists and locals alike are convinced it traces back to: "the executions ordered by party chiefs in the past", despite the fact that there seems to be no physical evidence of executions (bullet holes in the skulls, for example).
       The archaeological site was a Roman ruin, and Little Fingers itself proceeds much like an archaeological dig, uncovering both artifacts and the dirt that has accumulated over the years (decades ? centuries ?), with much guesswork as to what the finds mean. The evidence itself also changes -- including the rather disturbing disappearance of some of it: "The fingers were vanishing now, in the present, and the detective story with which they were faced was one without alibis and false trails."
       The narrative includes many extended accounts from the past, focussed on several of the locals, and shifts from first to third person. In the end ... well:

     In the end, the tenses of the verbs settled into a common groove, the persons of the narrators, first and third (the latter with so many variants and identities), became one, and events thronged toward a day that began uncertainly and remained undecided, with a light gray film covering the sky.
       It gives the story an odd flow: this is less a mystery to be solved -- identifying the remains (or rather who was responsible for these deaths) -- than a broad portrait of Romania in communist and now post-communist times. Yet Florian's is not a panoramic overview, but rather one made up of a few rather stray pieces. Stories, like that of the local photographer's dromedary, can seem tangential, while others are spun out a considerable length.
       The narrative approach also varies, from tales recounted to the narrator to what are practically snapshots. So, for example, one extended passage begins: "There is no need for a freeze-frame, because in room 211, with the exception of a tiny spider, nothing is moving", and goes on to include observations such as:
Somewhere in the cupboard (the picture also allows us to see a number of things that are, as a rule, invisible), hidden in a pouch behind the colonel's eleven white shirts, can be found many, very many other little fingers, collected with limitless abnegation from the mass grave.
       And so is much of the story: not the whole body, but little fingers, separated from the whole and carefully tucked away, each imbued with some meaning.
       Among the side-stories -- and it is only that, and comes near the end -- is that of a group of Argentinean anthropologists that come to Romania to help identify the victims. They are there because of their expertise -- which is the result of their own nation's sad history (which, tellingly, they have not been able to leave behind):
     The Argentinean anthropologists suffered from a chronic national illness, "los desaparecidos," whose acute, febrile phase had long since burnt itself out.
       For American readers, more familiar with the Argentinean horrors than the Romanian ones, this (very well done) episode threatens to be too dominant in the book , but Florian does the Romanian parts (the bulk of the story) equally well.
       Little Fingers is ambitious but compact, and occasionally feels too tightly packed together. There is a lot of story here, and a lot of history -- presented largely through personal stories -- and the mix of almost surreal elements (from the dromedary to the infant born with an enormous tuft of hair), digressions, and realist accounts can be heady.
       Little Fingers is an intriguing take on the Romanian present and past, but not always very approachable.

- M.A.Orthofer, 5 August 2009

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Little Fingers: Reviews: Filip Florian: Other books by Filip Florian under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Romanian author Filip Florian was born in 1968.

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© 2009-2021 the complete review

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