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In Northern Italy is the valley of the river Po. It lies between the Po and the Apennines and it is here that the little world of Don Camillo can be found. The name of the actual village is immaterial as there are countless villages just like Don Camillo’s, scattered across the region. Stories are to be found at every field, every river and every crossroad. The climate is always the same, never too hot and never too cold. The local wine is the finest in all of Italy, the girls are the most beautiful, the cheese is the most excellent, and, according to the author, even the dogs have souls. Here we will come to meet the village priest Don Camillo, his adversary Peppone, the Communist Mayor and local mechanic, and a host of other characters who make up the local community. You should not be surprised that Christ watches the goings on of Don Camillo from a large wooden cross, and frequently talks to him. It is also true that Camillo and Peppone frequently beat each other over the head with whatever comes to hand. The adversaries are heavyweights in every sense of the word, but the beatings are without any real malice, and both parties find that in the end they agree on the important issues of life. The Little World of Don Camillo is the first book in a series of five, written by Giovanni Guareschi, which in total contains some 100 short stories. Each magical story leads you onto the next and makes you read “just one more” until time has flown and…. well I am quite sure that you know exactly what I am talking about. The five books are: •The Little World of Don Camillo •Don Camillo and the Prodigal Son •Don Camillo’s Dilemma •Don Camillo and the Devil •Comrade Don Camillo I am fortunate to have a copy (now out of print), which contains all five books. Keep your eyes peeled for a copy at book fairs etc. You wont regret the purchase.
The characters and story were born purely by mischance, as Guareschi, having literally 30 minutes to go to press on a magazine he was writing for, invented and created a short story. In this story Don Camillo and Peppone were born, and the first story in the book was created. The public demanded more and more of the priest’s tales and eventually enough of the stories existed to publish the first book in 1950. Be prepared to smile throughout, at the gentle humour that Guareschi injects into the stories, and to laugh aloud at some of the antics of our hero. Did I mention the fact that Don Camillo has a tommy-gun? That he is an excellent shot? and that both he and Peppone are highly skilled poachers? These are only some of the unlikely scenarios, which are the basis of one or two hilarious episodes. In the 1970’s, the BBC produced “The World of Don Camillo” as a television series. A marvellous production, it starred Brian Blessed as Peppone (perfect typecasting) and Mario Adorf as Don Camillo. It has always been a mystery to me why this series was never shown again, perhaps one of these days we will see it dusted down and shown. DON’T MISS IT! It may well be that there is a catholic priest or a communist official who finds some of the stories offensive. If this is so, I leave you with the words of Giovanni Guareschi who sums the situation up better that I could ever hope to: “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 cant help it; for the one who speaks this story is not Christ, but my Christ - that is, the voice of my conscience.” ISBN: 0891902155