Because of my negative opinions about this book, I translated several of the Romanian reviews for this see what readers who read it in its original language had to say about it. Every Romanian, without exception, says that it is brilliant. However, nearly all reviewers for the English translation say that they had to plod through the book, that it is confusing, or that they gave up on it. So my conclusion is that either a) The translator didn't do such a great job, b) English speakers can't appreciate Romanian literature, or c) English speakers aren't so bright. Since I read it and didn't like it, I'd hate to think "c" to be true.
This Romanian author writes in the same tradition as many Spanish authors I've read; the sentences go on forever and ever. It isn't out of the ordinary for a sentence to go on for 10 lines with 6 commas and 3 parenthetical tangents. This would have been just fine if I wasn't confused about who was doing what, when, and where in each sentence. It's not uncommon for a half-paged sentence in this book to switch between characters, subjects, and time periods. I think that, for the author, this is a game. In fact, in one place he specifically says that he thinks it would be a really great exercise for school children to have to take such a super-long sentence and write one main idea for the sentence. Sometimes I wondered, though, if the sentences couldn't have been made more understandable if the translator had changed around a few misplaced modifiers and clarified a few pronouns. Then again, it's possible that the author's writing was indecipherable in the first place. However, I doubt this very much because of all the glowing Romanian reviews.
I have to admit that I read the majority of this book without ever really comprehending what was happening. There were moments of lucidity where I enjoyed very strange stories about camels or about a monk whose hair grew at the rate of 4 inches every 8 hours (or was it 8 inches every 4 hours?). At times I felt like I was entering the strange world of a storyteller like Italo Calvino. And then I'd lose the storyline altogether.
I considered stopping my reading at page 50, but I plodded on, convinced by the few glowing reviews by English-speaking readers that I might finally find a jewel in the rough. I had no such luck. I managed to find the secret of the mass grave uncovered at the beginning of the novel. But, frankly, if that storyline is what brings you to the book (like it did me), please be forewarned that that particular tangent only lasts for 5 or 6 pages. Everything else is sometimes delicious but usually infinitely scannable filler story with a few weird twists for good measure. Note: While I critique both purchased and free books in the same way, I'm legally obligated to tell you I received this book free through the Amazon Vine program in return for my review. Blah blah blah.