Fante between father and son

il Centro
Cultura & Società
27 march 1998

Fazi publishes the most autobiographical novel written by this writer of Abruzzese origin
by Paolo Di Vincenzo

book cover Here in the bookshops is "Full of life" a tender story of childbirth. "Figli - bah", borbottò. "they hate their father...". "They are ashamed of their own flesh and blood ...". "'Tis better to die. They bury you. they forget about you...". This is one of the most significant, intense moments in John Fante's "Full of life", published at last also in Italian by the editor Fazi (155 pages).

John Fante was the son of Abruzzese emigrants from Torricella Peligna (Torcelli, as the name was misspelled in the Italian American slang) and his parent's little town is often mentioned in his books, as well as in this one too of course. As pointed out by the publisher (who with Marcos y Marcos shares the copyrights of the Italian American writer), "Full of life" is Fante's most autobiographical, funniest and most successful novel in America.

The relationship with the father is basic, since John Fante, in his struggle with his old man, a hateful mason who does all kinds of bad things to the son, but who can with great amiability make himself beloved by all those he meets, mirrors the relationship with his own son, just about to be born. This novel is, as a matter of fact, the story of the birth of John Fante's own son. In a few masterly pages the writer, not by chance exalted by such critics as Charles Bukowsky, Pier Vittorio Tondelli and Sandro Veronesi, can depict the character of the Abruzzese: stubborn, hot-tempered, ready to sacrifice themselves for what they believe to be a fundamental objective in their own lives, but who are also capable of great acts of generosity.

Fante tells about his pregnant wife, Joyce, and the problem of termites in their Los Angeles home. To repair the floor eaten by the insects he thinks he can ask his elderly father, "the greatest mason in California". The joy of the thought clashes with his wife's warning: "Promise one thing". "Sure". "That you'll never treat your son like your father treated you". Afterwards, however, his wife turns into the strongest ally of his old father, especially when the latter tries to re-convert John Fante to the catholic religion. In summary, a game of alliances, love, small resentments, joy for the soon to be born child, the whims of the woman giving birth for the first time, the stubbornness of the old father and soon to be grandfather, Abruzzese traditions, red wine and garlic (placed into the pockets of the unaware Dad-to-be to conjure the birth of a male child), Los Angeles and Torricella Peligna. From this book a film was made in the Fifties, though not as good as the story.

English text edited by Albert Porreca