cover image TWELVE FINGERS: Biography of an Anarchist

TWELVE FINGERS: Biography of an Anarchist

Jo Soares, , trans. from the Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers. . Pantheon, $23 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-375-40893-9

A television and film personality sometimes described as the David Letterman of Brazil, Soares offers readers a snapshot tour of 20th-century history in his amusing second novel. The tour's guide is Dmitri Korozec, a Bosnian-born political radical with two distinct qualities: he possesses an extra finger on each hand, and he can bungle even the best-laid plans. Shortly before WWI, his anarchist father introduces him into a leftist secret society via a rather extreme initiation rite. Dmitri then undergoes rigorous training in munitions, sharpshooting and subversive tactics—all in preparation for the attempted assassination of Archduke Ferdinand during his visit to Sarajevo. In what will become the prevailing pattern of his life, however, he fails miserably and another man fires the shot that inaugurates the Great War. Undaunted, Dmitri moves on to one attempted coup after another, becoming the Forrest Gump of assassins. Inevitably, he ambushes no one so well as himself—getting lost, falling overboard, even slipping on a banana peel. As in his first novel, A Samba for Sherlock, Soares delights in populating his book with a variety of famous faces, enlivening his account with photos, including one of a portrait Picasso drew of Dmitri on a napkin. Despite Dmitri's devotion to anarchist thought, don't expect an in-depth analysis of leftist politics (or anything else, for that matter). Dmitri's is the very definition of a picaresque journey, with its one-dimensional rascal hero and a plot based on repetition. Landers's translation gives this book the brisk pacing it deserves, as our hero hops from adventure to adventure, never deterred by failure. (June 21)