'Fists' by Pietro Grossi (2006)

Fists - Pietro Grossi, Howard Curtis

Pietro Grossi, Fists (London: Pushkin Press, 2012), 155pp. Translated by Howard Curtis.

 

A collection of three bildungsromans of varying quality. Pietro Grossi has an obvious Hemingway influence, and 'Fists', the first and best of the three short stories in this book, is the most enjoyably Hemingway-esque. The honour and challenge of competitive boxing is a fine setting for a coming-of-age story, and Grossi draws on the sport in the same way that Hemingway drew on bullfighting. The story is rather gripping, and the character arcs believable and organic. It also has a heady ending: "man's business" indeed.

However, one should not put Grossi on a pedestal just yet, as the other two stories in Fists are not as strong. 'Horses' is a good story well-told, but still a step down after the first story. Its ending is also appealingly ambiguous, as one does not know where Natan is going (i.e. is he seeking revenge, despite Daniel's contentment?). 'The Monkey' is rather poor and muddled and its characters less fleshed out. I am not sure whether it was meant to be humorous or profound, or what its moral was.

Overall, Fists demonstrates that Grossi is a writer to take notice of, and I fully intend to read his first full-length novel, The Break, at some point. Kudos should also go to Howard Curtis, who translated this book into English seamlessly; the prose loses none of its bracing brevity.