The series of books about the continual fight between the honest village priest Don Camillo and his dastardly enemy Peppone the Communist Mayor have long been a favourite of mine and it is a shame that the books are currently out of print. You can obtain second-hand copies of the Giovanni Guareshi books quite cheaply and I recommend them for a bit of light entertainment and gentle humour. The introduction to the first book in the series is reproduced below and gives you a taste of what joys await.
The Little World of Don Camillo
by Giovanni Guareschi
The little world of Don Camillo is to be found somewhere in the valley of the Po River. It is almost any village on that stretch of plain in Northern Italy. There, between the Po and the Apennines, the climate is always the same. The landscape never changes and, in country like this, you can stop along any road for a moment and look at a farmhouse sitting in the midst of maize and hemp—and immediately a story is born.
Why do I tell you this instead of getting on with my story? Because I want you to understand that, in the Little World between the river and the mountains, many things can happen that cannot happen anywhere else. Here, the deep, eternal breathing of the river freshens the air, for both the living and the dead, and even the dogs, have souls. If you keep this in mind, you will easily come to know the village priest, Don Camillo, and his adversary Peppone, the Communist Mayor. You will not be surprised that Christ watches the goings-on from a big cross in the village church and not infrequently talks, and that one man beats the other over the head, but fairly—that is, without hatred—and that in the end the two enemies find they agree about essentials…
And one final word of explanation before I begin my story. If there is a priest anywhere who feels offended by my treatment of Don Camillo, he is welcome to break the biggest candle available over my head. And if there is a Communist who feels offended by Peppone, he is welcome to break a hammer and sickle on my back. But if there is anyone who is offended by the conversations of Christ, I can’t help it; for the one who speaks in this story is not Christ but my Christ—that is, the voice of my conscience.
Books in the Don Camillo series:
- The Little World of Don Camillo. 1950.
- Don Camillo and the Prodigal Son. 1952.
- Don Camillo’s Dilemma. 1954. Collection of short stories.
- Comrade Don Camillo (published 1964; translated by Frances Frenaye)
- Don Camillo Meets Hell’s Angels (published 1970)
- Don Camillo and the Devil. 1957.