'The Little World of Don Camillo' - Book Review

The Little World of Don Camillo
by Giovanni Guareschi
All Saints Press, 153 pages

Giovannino Guareschi is best known for the character he created for his post-Second World War weekly satirical magazine, the priest Don Camillo. Camillo is the Catholic priest of a small town in the Po River valley in Italy, and he's primarily used to poke fun at the Communists - embodied in the town's mayor, Peppone. Both men are big, strong, and hot-headed, and they frequently butt heads (and that's not just a metaphor, as they occasionally solve their issues with a fist fight). As a kid (12? 14?) I thought these stories were hysterical. Reading them in 2019 I know the historical context better, and while Guareschi meant them as humour and they were immensely popular with the Italians, they're fairly clearly the product of a violent transitional period in Italy's history. This is comedy that involves intimidation, threats to life and limb, fist fights, tommy guns, and the occasional bomb. Mind you, Peppone is both a secret Catholic and a humanist who can usually be convinced to do the right thing by people despite his Communist rhetoric - Camillo and Peppone are a perfect example of "frenemies" long before the term existed.

Guareschi's Don Camillo stories were compiled into five or six slender paperback volumes that made their way to Canada in English translation in the 1960s: they were probably relatively obscure at the time, they're entirely forgotten now. Aside from the slightly off-putting comedic violence, the prose (admittedly in English translation) and the plotting (that can be blamed on the author) weren't great, and the ideas and confrontations were getting repetitive towards the end so I'm not going to re-read the other three I have available.