John Fante´s Wait Until Spring Bandini Book in Review
A couple of months ago I read a fantastic article about how Hitler nearly destroyed the great American novel. You can find it here. Ryan Holiday, the article´s author walks us though the fascinating saga of John Fante (an American novelist from the beginning of last century) and his nearly forgotten glorious books.
In the words of his biographer, Stephen Cooper:
John Fante was writing this little personal novel about his alter ego who wants to write stories and be in love, meanwhile the world is about to explode and nations are waiting to invade their neighbors and it’s all going to end with the Atom Bomb. It’s a spectacularly enigmatic layering of story.
Long story short: in 1938 John Fante chose the Stackpole and Sons publishing house to publish his first novel, Wait Until Spring Bandini. What was promising to be a great success, took a miserable turn as shortly after, that same publishing house decided to print Adolf Hitler´s Mein Kampf. Mein Kampf had already been published by a big publishing house, Houghton Mifflin. Now Houghton Mifflin were not kidding when they said they´d bring Stackpole in front of the U.S. Court. And so started a legal war that would take up so much of Stackpole´s money and resources, that John Fante´s momentum as well as his book nearly got lost. Truth is, the momentum didn´t return until the 80s when Fanté, a double amputee was slowly dying, but his fame finally reached at least part of the potential it deserved.
The novel is the beginning of a saga of an Italian immigrant family, that of Svevo Bandini. It plays in Depression era Colorado in the 20s and is truly and awfully bittersweet due to its accounts of poverty, cold, heartbreak and betrayal. The book is heavy with nostalgia, unattainable goals and yet, it has nothing but the essential in it when it comes to Fante´s writing. The saga follows bitter Svevo Bandini, his kind-hearted wife Maria, their three sons: impressionable Federico, pious Augusto and eternally angry Arturo through a cold Colorado winter, where the temperatures are as low as their food supply.
Son of an Italian immigrant himself, Fante contours Arturo Bandini as his alter ego. Much like Bukowski (who was heavily influenced by Fante) does with Henry Chinaski.
Wait Until Spring, Bandini is the first book of Fante´s saga and it will leave you a little more heartbroken, compassionate and eager to read more than when you first picked it up. And for those of you who prefer the movie, good news: there is a movie and you can find it on Youtube here. Is the movie ever as good as the book though?