First published in Italian in 2006, Pietro Grossi's collection of three short stories, Fists, is now available in an English translation by Howard Curtis. And if these stories are any indication of Grossi's talent, the translation comes much too late. His prose has the deceptive simplicity of a Hemingway overlaid with the tantalizing ambiguity of a writer like Paul Auster. It is the kind of writing that sneaks up on the reader and leaves him with the sense that he has come into contact with something extraordinary. Grossi's subjects are the events that change lives, the kinds of charged experiences that James Joyce found led to epiphanies.
"Boxing," the first of the stories, describes the great match of two young fighters' lives. The narrator, a self identified nerdy momma's boy who has built himself into an almost mythical fighter despite the fact that he has never actually fought a bout, is finally challenged by a deaf-mute bull of a battler who has heard of his reputation. On the one hand, it is a fight that teaches both boxers something about life, something about what it means to be a man. On the other hand, it is a fight that demonstrates that myth need not be destroyed by stubborn reality.
The narrator is known as the Dancer. He is renowned for his finesse and prowess, but it is prowess that has never been tested. His opponent is the Goat. He plugs away at his craft with the dogged obstinacy of his namesake, but more importantly, he has been proven in the ring. For the spectators, the Dancer tells us, the match was a chance to see "the stuff of legends." "They had come there to see if it was really worth telling the stories and believing in them or if, once again, as usually happened, reality would destroy the myth...." It was to be a "battle between dream and reality, between the world as it was and the way we would like it to be."