A few tidbits about that first Don Camillo book:
The Little World of Don Camillo is, of course, a translation of the very first Don Camillo book in Italian, Mondo piccolo: Don Camillo (Rizzoli, 1948). Credited with helping the Christian Democrats secure victory over the Communists in the Italian national election of 1948, the controversial book had became a runaway bestseller in Europe before coming to the attention of Sheila Cudahy, the distaff side of the American Catholic publishers Pellegrini & Cudahy (later acquired by Farrar, Straus, et al.), who worked hard to bring Don Camillo to an English- speaking audience. Una Vincenzo Troubridge, better known professionally as Colette’s first translator into English (and better known in general as the companion of author Radclyffe Hall), did the translation.
In a letter to Giovannino Guareschi, Lady Troubridge mentions having translated all of the book; however, the standard editions of the English-language version of Mondo Piccolo did not end up containing every single story from the Italian original. Among the important items missing are these:
- Introductory tales: In Italian (and many non-English translations, I’ve no doubt), the book begins with three short, evocative stories that don’t mention the big priest at all. Indeed, they were originally written in 1942, four years before the first Don Camillo story, but the author positioned them at the start of the book in order to give the reader a preliminary sense of the ethos of the Little World and the character of its people. Alberto and Carlotta Guareschi still maintain that they are crucial for establishing a necessary mood, and lament their exclusion as, perhaps, the biggest deficiency of the English-language version of Mondo Piccolo.
When I begain doing serious research on the Don Camillo books, I talked to some Anglophone fans who claimed to remember reading the introductory pieces, one of which they described as a rather memorable ghost story. At first I thought that these must be bilingual folks who’d simply seen the stories in some other language, but, after a bit of digging, I was able to find the tales myself. It turns out they’d been included in certain British re-issues of The Little World, among them a 1953 “Reprint Society” edition and a 1960s “Readers Union” book club version. These volumes appear periodically on eBay or at the Advanced Book Exchange, and are worth looking for.
- The old schoolteacher: “Sra. Giuseppina” is modeled after Guareschi’s own schoolteacher mother, and her story is featured prominently in the first Don Camillo film; however, it’s omtitted from the book in English.
- Young love: Also absent is the tale of the first of Guareschi’s young “Romeo and Juliet” match-ups, Catholic girl Gina dei Filotti and Communist boy Mariolino della Bruciata. They, too, were major characters in the 1951 film, but if you’re a fan of Guareschi in English, you’ll only know Gina and and Mariolino from their brief appearance in the second Don Camillo book, Don Camillo and His Flock (aka Don Camillo and the Prodigal Son). In that one, the by-then-married pair visits Don Camillo during his exile from the parish because, given his role in their prior courtship, they want him rather than a substitute priest to baptize their baby.
- And the rest: There are about 15 other missing chapters, including one which, I believe, the American publisher rejected as too violent because, in it, Don Camillo kills a chicken!
I am extremely curious about the fate of the translated stories not ultimately used by the English- language publishers. The Guareschi family does not have the manuscripts, nor are they listed in the inventory of Lady Troubridge’s papers residing in the University of Texas at Austin. For a while, I had hoped the missing chapters might be among the Farrar, Straus, and Giroux papers in the New York City Public Library (which collection does contain various contracts and other correspondence with and relating to Guareschi). However, I finally had the chance to talk to someone who’s seen that material (in fact, he made major use of it in a Guareschi-citing book on the subject of translation in general), and he tells me the extra stories aren’t there either.
If anyone has any ideas about where I could search next, please leave a comment!