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Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

Book cover for Spit Three Times
Book cover for Spit Three Times

Translated by Jamie Richards

Part of the Sélection Officielle Angoulême 2018
Winner of the Carlo Boscarato Prize 2016
Winner of the Lo Straniero Prize 2016
Winner of the Attilio Micheluzzi Prize 2017 for Best Writing

In a forsaken corner of the Italian countryside, Guido and his friends Moreno and Katango spin out their days in languor and boredom intermixed with desire and, occasionally, violence. Nearby live the Stančič, a family of Romani who escaped the communist regime of Marshal Tito and settled here just after World War II. Guido’s coming-of-age is changed by the evolving relationship that the rural town has with this group of outsiders, these “gypsies.” The author is unsparing in his depiction of the townspeople’s cruelty. And yet, there are also many instances of solidarity between Guido’s community and the Stančič. Davide Reviati’s first book in English, Spit Three Times is an extraordinary story of young men, disillusioned and trying to find their way, caught in the breach between post-war exuberance and the stagnation of the early twenty-first century.

Book cover for Spit Three Times
Book cover for Spit Three Times

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“Youth is cast as a stark fable in Spit Three Times by Davide Reviati, a restless, lyrical epic about three boys and their Roma neighbours set in a postwar Italian backwater. There’s an elegiac economy to Reviati’s glorious panels, which show darkened rooms, fields that bleed into infinity and balletic figures convulsed in rage and ecstasy, as time slips through their fingers.”

“It is a rare pleasure to find a graphic novel where energetic black-and-white drawings and simple but eloquent text are intertwined with such harmony, each enhancing the other. ... a prime example of the melding of propulsive storytelling and a distinctive artist’s hand... Ultimately, Reviati delivers a penetrating view of the vicissitudes of developing into an adult in a world that is fraught with generations of mistrust, anger, and poverty and yet is suffused with the vibrant enchantment of being human.”

“In this languid coming-of-age saga set in a rural Italian village, a group of indolent, disaffected teenagers, including introspective narrator Guido and his thuggish friend Grisu, spend their days desultorily drinking, smoking dope, and creating minor havoc. Flashbacks depict the boys’ childhood, when their aimless days spent together seem little different from their rudderless adolescence. Occasionally their paths cross with the Stančičs, a Romani family who after WWII fled communist Yugoslavia ,and in particular, their disheveled, near-feral daughter, Loretta. The uneasy relationship between the townspeople and the “gypsies” is a persistent undercurrent throughout the book; at one point, one of Loretta’s brothers delivers a chilling monologue detailing the Nazis’ persecution of the Romani. The meandering story, which clocks in at a hefty 500-plus pages, brings to mind a rural, impoverished, and fuzzily mystical version of Fellini’s I Vitelloni. Reviati’s feathery drawings are even wispier than the story; the characters’ indistinct faces and simply outlined figures reflect the vagueness of their lives.”

“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... 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... [T]hose 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.”

“Reviati’s depiction of the life and cultural realities of the Roma, and the idea of a non-territorial nation, is a healthy corrective to the 21st century’s obsession with national borders and their military enforcement. His drawings and text evoke a palpable sense of nature, weather and a spatial freedom that crosses all borders.”

“A masterpiece in black and white.”

“In Davide Reviati's Italian graphic novel violence and vulnerability magnificently coexist.”

“More than 500 pages and they read like they were less than half as many. Thanks to the impressive fluidity of the montage and the lightness of the writing.”

“Integration, drugs, secrets, ignorance, wisdom, rural depression, dreams, threats, coming of age: this and much more is summoned by Reviati's imagistic poetry. You'll find your eyes glistening once again.”

Spit Three Times is a fairy tale/fable both ancient and modern at the same time. It sucks you in with its raw reality and then launches you into dreams, nightmares, and fantasies that have been embedded in our collective unconscious for ages upon ages. And above all, I believed every moment... every image... very word.”

Davide Reviati  is an Italian cartoonist and illustrator (for il ManifestoLa Stampa, and L’Unità among others), and screenwriter. His graphic novel Morti di sonno (Coconino Press, 2009) won the 2010 Napoli Comic Con, and the dBD prize for best foreign comic for its French edition (Casterman 2011). Sputa tre volte (Spit Three Times) was published in Italy in 2016 after seven years of crafting story and illustrations.

Jamie Richards is an American literary translator based in Milan. She holds an MFA in translation from the University of Iowa and a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Oregon. Her translations include Igiaba Scego’s novel Adua, Zerocalcare’s graphic reportage Kobane Calling, and Serena Vitale’s interviews with Viktor Shklovsky, Witness to an Era.