"Fingers and Other Fantastic Stories"
by Marian Coman
The review is based on a bought copy of the book
Marian Coman is part of a young generation of Romanian writers, but he is one of the few who touches with the strokes of his talented pencil the realms of the speculative fiction. Marian Coman was born on May 1977, in Mangalia, Romania and is currently the editor-in –chief of the newspaper “Obiectiv – Vocea Brăilei”. He graduated the courses of the Petre Andrei University with a specialization in psychology and social assistance. Marian Coman made his debut at the age of 17, when he published his first short story. That debut was followed by other short stories published in a number of Romanian anthologies and by the editorial debut with the personal volume, “Nopți Albe, Zile Negre” (White Nights, Black Days), in 2005. Since the release of his first personal volume Marian Coman also published another fiction collection in 2007, “Testamentul de ciocolată” (The Chocolate Testament), and a publishing volume, “Teoria flegmei. Apel la mitocănie” (The Phlegm Theory. Appeal at Grossness). His work was recognized with an EUROCON Award in 2006, a Kult Award for personal volume also in 2006 and with another Kult Award, for exceptional literary quality, in 2007. “Fingers and Other Fantastic Stories” is his first volume to be translated into another language, collecting four short stories previously released in “Nopți Albe, Zile Negre” (White Nights, Black Days) and giving a small measure of the talent Marian Coman posses.
“Fingers” is the story of a man in a strange relationship with the warp on his right forefinger and recollecting some of his childhood memories. It is one of the most evocative pieces of Marian Coman, although this particular aspect will appeal differently to the Romanian readers than those outside. That doesn’t mean that only Marian Coman’s compatriots will find this story captivating, I only believe that the points of interest for “Fingers” will come from different angles. Set during the Communist regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu the story connects, to a point, with the collective memory of the Romanian readers putting on the wall scenes and events which can prove to be painful and sweet in the same measure. For other readers, these scenes might create an eerie and strange atmosphere, bitter here and there, but true to the reality of those historical times. That harsh period of time is dressed however in the clothes of fiction which bring all the readers to the same ground, allowing them to share some weird and unsettling moments together.
“The Bathroom Door” is the story of a boy who moves together with his parents in a new apartment only to find that the bathroom connects to a different realm. This story touches again the period of the Communist regime in Romania, but less than the previous one. Instead is more concentrated on the fictional elements, bringing forth terrifying images in a bigger or smaller scale. “The Bathroom Door” has a humorous side, that might seem unwelcomed in the context of the story, but which relieves a little the heavy atmosphere set by the general line of this drama.
In “Unwired” (which can be read on Grasping for the Wind too) a few survivors of a mysterious event find themselves on an island sometime after their escape, with a young boy different from the rest of the island’s population as main character, finding himself in search of acceptance. Marian Coman creates a fictional setting and situation, easily identifiable throughout the story. However, the human condition is taken into account in its full dimension. Particularly when the innocence embraces the violence and cruelty. “Unwired” is a very short, but sad story, which leaves the reader in a state of melancholy.
The monks from “Between Walls” find that the walls of their monastery are unsettled by strange noises. In the search for the source of those noises they will also attempt to cleanse their monastery of its disquietude. “Between Walls” has at its base one of the most known Romanian legends, that of the master builder Manole. His legend, described in the folk ballad “The Monastery on the Argeș River”, tells the myth of the onymous monastery. Basically, the master builder Manole and nine of his men are hired by Negru Vodă to build the most beautiful monastery only to see the walls they raised by day crumbling by night. Manole has a dream in which learns that in order to finish the building he and his men have to sacrifice some very dear to them and the next day that person proves to be Ana, the pregnant wife of Manole. After the master builder Manole bricks his wife inside the monastery’s walls Negru Vodă leaves him and his men on the building roof to prevent them to raise other, more beautiful, monastery. Manole and his men make wings from the roof’s tiles, but fell to the ground and die one by one. It is said that in the place where Manole fell it is now a spring of clear water. Marian Coman changes the approach of the legend, giving it a new perspective, a background for the marriage between Manole and Ana and a glimpse into the monastery’s future. The author also offers a natural environment for the human character and condition within “Between Walls”.
“Fingers and Other Fantastic Stories” is a short collection of stories, but it gives enough opportunity for Marian Coman’s talent to surface. A flowing language, kept with an appropriate translation as far as I can see, a mind that spawns images and scenes with a discomforting ease and an ability to give grace to tragedy are qualities that make Marian Coman a unique and powerful writer. I only hope that he receives the deserved occasions to enchant the readers as often as possible, equally in his native language as in others around the world.