Thursday, 11 May 2000

Giovanni Guareschi: Don Camillo's Dilemma (1954)

Translation: Frances Frenaye, 1954
Edition: Gollancz, 1954
Review number: 498

While the later collections of Guareschi's tales of the little world of Don Camillo never quite match the freshness of the first one, Don Camillo's Dilemma is one of the best of them. The politics are rather more clearly apparent, and despite the words given to Christ saying that he is part of no political party it is clear where Guareschi's own sympathies lie - almost all the stories end with the triumph of the church over (some, at least) of the Communists of the village. The villagers still want children baptised, even if they don't believe in God.

The delight of these stories is the naive and sincere nature of the villagers, which can easily become a pleasure derived from a smug feeling of comparative sophistication. Guareschi has too much respect for his characters to allow this to happen, and so the enjoyment the stories produce is tinged by a slight regret for something that we have lost.

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