cover image Spit Three Times

Spit Three Times

Davide Reviati, trans. from the Italian by Jamie Richards. Seven Stories, $28.95 trade paper (568p) ISBN 978-1-6098-0909-6

Haunting and dreamlike, Reviati’s tome threads together the coming-of-age story of Guido, a teenage slacker who struggles to express himself, and the saga of the Stançiçs, a Roma family living on the margins of their small Italian town. Guido and his thuggish friends taunt ferocious, unkempt Loretta Stançiç. When Guido’s friend stumbles upon a battered Loretta in the woods and finds a newborn baby under her skirt, he cuts the umbilical cord and saves the infant’s life, only to be run off by Loretta’s suspicious brothers. The thread picks up years later, when Guido hears that Loretta had three children, all lost to social services. One of the Stançiç brothers interrupts Loretta and Guido’s vignettes to give a primer on the treatment of the Roma during the Holocaust: at least 500,000 killed, many more sterilized as the subject of eugenic “studies.” Throughout, Reviati probes the intersection of history and memory, composing in fragments that double back on themselves. Reviati’s pen-and-ink lines are confident: shadows heavy, faces half blank but elegantly realized. Though searching for a plot through line is difficult at times, it’s hard to discern whether that’s due to translation, murky storytelling, or poetic intention. Nevertheless, those willing to slip into the town’s mysteries will be rewarded by Reviati’s stylish, brooding art, which captures the ache of losses small and large. (Apr.)