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The Man Who Snapped His Fingers

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  144 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Winner of the 2001 French Human Rights Prize, French-Iranian author Fariba Hachtroudi's English-language debut explores themes as old as time: the crushing effects of totalitarianism and the infinite power of love. 

She was known as "Lure 455," the most famous prisoner in a ruthless theological republic. He was one of the colonels closest to the Supreme Commander. When they
Paperback, 144 pages
Published February 16th 2016 by Europa Editions (first published February 2nd 2016)
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Storia notevole.
E anche l’intreccio è notevole: in un paese governato da un aberrante regime religioso e totalitario (facile riconoscere l’Iran), una donna, la prigioniera 455, passa diciotto mesi in un carcere di massima sicurezza, vittima di torture, violenza e abusi d’ogni tipo – ma non cede, anche di fronte al dolore più forte e all’umiliazione più profonda, tace, non fa nomi, dice solo “no”, costruendosi così, a sua insaputa, una fama leggendaria all’inte
Apr 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: translated, owned
This is a powerful story about a woman who was held prisoner in a fictional nation (inspired by totalitarian governments) and a colonel who worked at the prison in which she was kept. It deals with issues of resistance, unmitigated violence, betrayal, and ultimately, love. I think a re-read of this book would be really rewarding because even though it's quite a short novel, there is a lot going on. Hachtroudi handles the topic excellently, giving you enough to understand the characters at first, ...more
Roger Brunyate
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-east, politics
The Murderer Madly in Love
My view of the world amounted to a few centimeters of space above the ground, and a few pairs of feet, sometimes with shoes, sometime without. You have to have survived a place like Heaven to understand how and why a world reduced to an insignificant patch of floor can suddenly become so vital. You have to have a real hunger for life, in spite of Heaven, to be able to capture that random shot of a pair of feet that spend more time kicking you than walking by. The ne
Jul 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-fiction
Unforgettable novel ,winner of the 2001 French Human Rights Prize, is a powerful novel of impressions,meaning and totalitarian ideology. In a world where female voices are rarely given elevation, prisoner 455 is used as bait in an Iranian world to draw out her husband's subversive activities. Stoic and unbreakable she refuses to break despite the horrors inflicted upon her from the guards. The other voice is from a colonel whose close proximity to the Supreme Commander is fraught with his own in ...more
A woman is working in an asylum centre as a translator and is called in to translate an interview due to the unavailability another person. She utters the word, she has all but banished from her vocabulary. Yes. Now she faces the man with the voice she recognises, the man who snapped his fingers and changed her life, in their country, years ago.
One last interview with an asylum seeker who's a bit of a problem, said my interlocutor, who was not anyone I knew. He went on It's a Colonel from the Th
As someone who works on issues related to statelessness and refugees, I really wanted to love this book. Parts were incredible: the way Hachtroudi highlighted how awful and re-traumatizing the immigration/asylum process can be for many refugees, the vivid portrayal of the unsettled lifestyle of someone caught between two countries (forced to flee home, not yet granted passage into the U.S.), the haunting and vivid way she talked about the floor. Yes, the floor.

But other parts I honestly couldn'
Lucrezia Monti
Neppure 150 pagine per il libro più intenso, coinvolgente e sconvolgente che abbia letto negli ultimi dieci anni almeno.
In alcuni punti ho pianto senza ritegno.
Come solo una storia che senti vera può far piangere.
Perché, sebbene l'Iran non venga mai menzionato, non è difficile scorgerlo dietro la Repubblica teologica, così come non è affatto difficile trovare tanta umanità - con le sue passioni, le sue paure, le sue ossessioni, le sue fragilità - dietro a chi per pagine e pagine non ha neppure u
[Around the World challenge: Iran] L'histoire des retrouvailles entre une ancienne détenue torturée par un régime totalitaire et l'un des hauts gradés du régime qu'elle a rencontré en prison. Le roman est court mais l'écriture est dense, à deux voix. Le témoignage d'une erreur monstrueuse et sa quête de la vérité pour l'un, une libération de ses émotions et la recherche de la liberté pour l'autre, l'histoire des dommages irréparables de la dictature dans l'intimité de ces deux personnages. J'ai ...more
Alternating narrative between soldier and prisoner. Unambiguous ambiguous totalitarian country. Very short sentences. Quick but tense read.

Rating: 3.5

Also very much like the cover design and the title, which for once I like more than the original title (directly translated as the Colonel and Bait 455).
Sep 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
An intense depiction of internal turmoil and struggle, of two people who meet in two different times, two different places. An escapee to Europe from a "theological republic", her work as a translator of refugee deputations brings her literally cheek to jowl with one of her jailers, the man who was responsible for her release from the torture rooms. Their backstories are narrated in the first person. Gripping and intense, this work is a testimony to strength and courage amidst a miasma of subter ...more
Aug 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
A powerful, visceral, emotional story of hope, love, and resistance. There are some aspects, such as the author's dealing with mental illness and disability, that are somewhat concerning and did not age well, though.

Full Review here
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I will miss the discussion of this book - very sad I will.

I started reading and had a hard time putting down this book. Vima (Bait 455) and The Colonel (finally get name for him at the end Ala) share a history together -unpleasant for them both.

The torture that Vima/455 went through, yet survived, under the Supreme Commander. Ala's willingness to risk all for HIS Vima in rescuing Vima 455, when he was part of the elite team working for the Supreme Commander. We are given a window into both sides
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: around-the-world, wit
The man who snapped his fingers is definetely one of my favourites of the books I have read this year. I really struggled to put it down and just wanted to keep reading. When I was forced to stop reading because you know life, all I could think about was getting back to reading it. I found that I really connected with the characters (well as much as you can when you've lived a safe life) and really wanted to know more about them. If you're thinking about reading it just start it, it's a fantasti ...more
Maud (reading the world challenge)
[#34 Iran] A former prisoner who endured torture in a totalitarian regime finds herself face to face with a colonel she met in prison. The novel is short but the writing is dense. It's the story of a monstrous error, the quest for the truth to one of them, for freedom and emotional release to the other. It's also the story of the irreparable damage the dictature had on their private lives. I really liked this story, especially the raw violence of its ending. ...more
Erin Newton
Jul 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure how I feel about this book. So much of it was heartbreaking and unbearable. It was also powerful and beautifully written. It shows what one can endure for love. Prisoner Vima is like no character I've ever read. I wanted to say this book shows that no one is a perfect being but prisoner Vima is in a different class from Ala and scientist Vima. I'm confused about Del though. I'm not sure if I should despise him or pity him--it wasn't clear to me. And what about the toddler?!?!? ...more
Feb 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An incredibly powerful little book with a lot of depth that took me a very long time to complete, not because of length (it's quite short) or the language used, but the sheer density and weight of the story. I'll have to read this again at some point in the future, but it's definitely a beautiful, powerful story that requires some serious deep thinking afterwards. ...more
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is well-written, and I like that the narrative is written from two different perspectives about the same event. The topic is one that is not seen often in mainstream Western books, so it is a much appreciated glance into the Theological Republic of Iran and the refugee and asylum seeking process (and the physical and emotional toll that it can take on individuals).
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What kind of regime would call a prison "heaven"? 2 narrators throughout most of the book and their effects on the love life experienced by the other (2 couples). The haphazard-ness of love and what it endures and why. The dark sides explored. When the two women of the same name come together, they understand themselves better.

Iran. Russia. Fictional unnamed.

This narrative is dense as it is beautiful. Worth a second read. Lovely and brutal passages.
Dec 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Difficult premise and read, and unique. Definitely not a read for everyone - “455’s” flashbacks of her experiences are difficult. I didn’t feel much resolution at the end of the book but that is perhaps the author’s point. It was of interest to see the differing perspectives and how the characters strived to find a way to survive.
Becky Loader
Oct 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Be ready for an intense read.

Although this is a novel, I can't help but think that the author based much of the story on fact. It is just too intense and emotional not to be grounded in fact.

Bait 455 is a prisoner in a horrendous camp and is being used to try to get her husband to confess to crimes against the Supreme Commander. She never gives in. Never. At the worst time ever, she is rescued by a man who snaps his fingers and obtains her freedom. Much later, she meets him again under greatly c
World Literature Today
"The Man Who Snapped His Fingers tells the story of a colonel from the inner circle of the Iranian supreme commander who now lives in another country and an interpreter at its Office for Refugees and Stateless Persons who interprets for him. To tell the story, Hachtroudi chooses a first-person narrator point of view. She actually gives us two “I”s: one is the colonel speaking, in his head, to his absent wife; the other is the interpreter who contemplates her past and present as she goes through ...more
May 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
I was trying to figure out a way to describe this book. All I could come up with was this, it is utterly, terrifyingly, and beautifully human. You can relate to aspects of each character. At times, you despise the author for taking away the lies we tell ourselves about our actions. I wouldn't say this was the best book I've ever read, or that I loved all the characters, but honestly; I think that was the point. It is a physically exhausting story. It is not happy. But it is very human. She manag ...more
Derek Emerson
Aug 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-books-read
A powerful, short novel. A woman, who was a political prisoner and now serves as a translator for asylum seeker, finds herself face to face with her "savior." Here we find an interesting character who does good for love but has committed no end of evil acts. You want to like him, but it is impossible to overlook his faults. The main woman in the novel is a strong character who can handle a range of emotions. What is most fascinating is that although she now makes her living with words, she was s ...more
Alicia Michelle
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
It is really well-translated. I had a few questions at the end that were never answered, but the story made me think and made me cry a little. I would recommend it to anyone who likes to question society.
Jun 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
I also cried at the end of this one but bc I read it recently I thought it was Good and not just sentimental don't ask these distinctions are arbitrary.

Update: now 5 stars bc confirmed that this book has stayed w me forever and still makes me cry
Mar 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The back and forth viewpoints from the 2 characters leads you through different sides of overlapping journeys of people seeking refuge from a country they cannot stay in. It is gripping and serious but easy to be swept away in.
Oct 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
After reading all the reviews for this book, I had hoped for a great book. Unfortunately, I had to force myself to read through large sections of this book. It was a disappointment as the premise was interesting but the writing was just tough to get through.
Feb 26, 2016 rated it it was ok
I's got all the right ingredients, it just didn't cohere. Very earnest and heartfelt though. ...more
May 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars
Samantha Gunning
Mar 07, 2016 marked it as to-read
I won this book via Goodreads First Reads Giveaway. I received a paperback copy.
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