4 out of 5: The discovery of a mass grave filled with human skeletons in a small Romanian town is the animating event behind Little Fingers, Filip Florian's first novel and also his first work available in English. Is the grave evidence of a brutal genocide carried out by the former regime, or is it nothing more than a centuries-old collection of plague victims? This mystery serves as a rather feeble framing device and is quickly overshadowed by this novel's riotous and quirky assortment of stories and characters. There's a photographer with a camel, an aunt with prophetic dreams, a monk with hair that grows eight inches every four hours, an old man who fishes for pigeons from the top of a tower, Bolivian musicians, Roman ruins, Argentinean archeologists, and much more—all in about 200 pages. Little Fingers is messy and filled with loose ends, but it's also wonderfully imaginative. Ultimately, Little Fingers makes the point that we see only what we want to see, conforming our realties to our imaginations.
Florian's playful prose is masterfully translated by Alistair Ian Blyth, providing the perfect accompaniment to these inventive stories. This description of the mellowing effect of aging illustrates Florian's eclectic style:
The little girl no longer chases after lambs, not because she is not in good physical shape—she is, she does aerobics a number of times a week—but the little girl has known too much: love, mathematics, Easter lamb pudding, high and flat heels, the throes of labor, driving, divorce.In many cases, such as in this description of the villagers' first impression of the team of Argentinean archeologists, Florian makes good use of humor:
Four of the Argentineans were wearing jeans and a fifth Bermuda shorts, the T-shirt of one had sleeves shredded with a pair of scissors, the vest of another was imprinted with the face of the Pope, at the throat of the tallest swung a crucifix as big as a communion-wafer stamp. In short, they looked different from the way men of science usually appear in the popular imagination and were younger than they ought to have been.If you embrace whimsy and disorder, you'll love Little Fingers, but if you prefer a coherent plot and an organized structure, look elsewhere.