Review

Twelve Fingers: Biography of an Anarchist

by Jô Soares

If you crossed Forrest Gump with Maxwell Smart, then you would produce Dimitri Borja Korozec, the hapless hero of Jô Soares's picaresque novel TWELVE FINGERS: Biography of an Anarchist.

The son of a Serbian linotypist and a Brazilian contortionist, Dimo (as he is known to his friends and family) is initiated into his father's ultra-left anarchist society at an early age. The Poluskopzi get their name by removing the right testicle of their members, thus ensuring a lifetime of left political leanings. Dimo's indoctrination is total and culminates in his entrance to the Skola Atentora, the School for Assassins.

Dimo proves to be a very clever student who speaks five languages fluently and excels at all forms of assassination, especially firearms. His ease with guns is attributed to his genetic anomaly; he was born with an extra, perfectly formed index ---- or trigger --- finger on each hand. Despite this perfect imperfection, Dimo also proves to be a very clumsy student.

It is this clumsiness --- Dimo's not Soares's --- that drives TWELVE FINGERS. Following one failed assassination attempt after another, Dimo is a true victim of circumstance. His extra trigger finger gets in the way of his attempt to shoot Archduke Ferdinand and thus start World War I. His inattention to detail causes him to bribe the wrong jury in Al Capone's Chicago trial. His unfortunate sense of timing causes him to attempt to assassinate Brazilian ruler Getúlio Vargas at the exact moment the ruler decides to commit suicide. If Dimo's stubborn refusal to try something new begins to annoy by the novel's end, then the feeling of hope, that the next time he'll succeed, overcomes the brief irritation.

As Dimo travels the globe, Soares recreates history with his 12-fingered anarchist as the unintentional bystander. In addition to Archduke Ferdinand, Capone, and Vargas, Dimo runs into Mata Hari, Pablo Picasso, Marie Curie, George Raft, and Irving Thalberg. Soares blends historical figures with fictional history, throws in some artifacts and creates a biography that has the flavor of reality. He also hilariously mocks Western history, filling it with coincidences and bad timing.  

TWELVE FINGERS is a purely entertaining novel with no aspirations of starting a discussion of the merits of tyranny or terrorists. In fact, the fast-paced romp through world events has all the elements of a summer blockbuster movie: famous names, exotic locales, and an idealistic hero not hindered by failure or morals. Translated by Clifford E. Landers, TWELVE FINGERS was originally published in Brazil by Editora Schwarz as O HOMEN QUE MATOU GETÚLIO VARGAS.

Reviewed by Amee Vyas on June 12, 2001

Twelve Fingers: Biography of an Anarchist
by Jô Soares

  • Publication Date: June 12, 2001
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon
  • ISBN-10: 0375408932
  • ISBN-13: 9780375408939