We come now to the first of two Don Camillo volumes in English which had no Italian counterpart. Both were published in the US and UK during the ten-year gap between the release of the second and third Italian Don Camillo books (the ones known in English as Don Camillo and His Flock and Comrade Don Camillo). Why such a gap existed in Italy, I don’t know– I guess there was less of a need for Don Camillo to appear frequently in book form in his country of origin, where new stories about the Little World continued to appear individually on a regular basis in Guareschi’s weekly paper Candido. The English-speaking world, however, had no access to the big priest except through story collections in book form: luckily for us, Guareschi’s US and UK publishers gave us this one.
Don Camillo’s Dilemma, by Giovanni Guareschi.
Copyright Giovanni Guareschi, 1954. Translated by Frances Frenaye. NEW YORK: Farrar, Strauss, and Young, Inc.; 1954. Library of Congress catalog card number 54-9353. Published simultaneously in Canada by Ambassador Books, Ltd., Toronto. First published in Great Britain by Victor Gollancz, Ltd.; 1954.
Good news: things seem to be much as ever in this third collection of stories about the Little World of Don Camillo, as our favorite hot-tempered priest continues to try to defeat Communism without hurting the local communists whom he sees as part of his flock. One might say that Don Camillo’s dilemma is to find a way to successfully fight the dirty battle against the Reds without resorting to fighting dirty himself — however, he’s got a long way to go! Still, when he’s not asking forgiveness for his methods, the good pastor can be found diligently attending to the needs of his parishioners, from absolving a junior thief to assisting a test-taking mayor.
The title Don Camillo’s Dilemma was chosen by publisher Farrar, Strauss, and Young, says Alberto Guareschi, and it refers to no particular dilemma (other than Don Camillo’s usual one, characterized in my summary above).
Also worth pointing out, I think, is that there are a lot of very good Peppone-focused stories in this volume. Anyone who might doubt that the mayor is the co-protagonist of the series should look at “The Stranger” (it’s on this blogger’s very short list of all-time-favorite Little World stories), “Electioneering in the Home,” “Holiday Joys,” “The Gold Rush,” “Peppone Goes Back to School,” etc.
- Introduction — How Don Camillo and Peppone were born and how they go on living
- Electioneering in the Home — The national elections are here, and Peppone’s wife needs advice on how to vote.
- Back to 1922 — A Fascist returns to town, and Peppone is eager to avenge a 30-year-old insult.
- A Soul for Sale — Communist Neri sells to old capitalist Molotti the soul he doesn’t believe he has… a good deal, no?
- Beauty and the Beast — Marco and Giulietta are “just comrades,” until she enters a Party-sponsored beauty contest.
- A Country Priest’s Diary — Don Camillo unearths 300-year-old parish records with implications for the town’s honor.
- Revenge is Sweet — Don Camillo’s soccer team shows up Peppone’s; then the chickens for the victory party disappear…
- The Man without a Head — Everyone in the village fears a 200-year-old headless ghost– all except Don Camillo, that is.
- The Stranger — Peppone has a chance to even an old score when an adversary from his past turns up at his garage needing car repairs.
- The Gold Rush — “Pepito Sbezzeguti” has won the National Lottery, and now the whole town knows what an “anagram” is.
- The Whistle — The young son of Don Camillo’s hunter friend Cino dei Bassi seems destined to follow in the tragic family footsteps.
- The Excommunicated Madonna — A visiting artist chooses an unconventional model for his painting of the Madonna.
- The Procession — Don Camillo refuses to hire a band that had played the Communist anthem “Internationale” at one of Peppone’s rallies.
- Holiday Joys — The Reds have tried to cancel Christmas, but Peppone finds it’s not that simple.
- A Lesson in Tactics — A rich American stranger will help the village poor, provided that the mayor’s not a Communist.
- Peppone has a Diplomatic Illness — Peppone’s personal fortunes fall, and soon he’s nowhere to be found.
- A Ball Bounces Back — Little trouble-maker Magrino discovers his conscience and teaches Don Camillo a lesson.
- The Card Sharpers — Peppone organizes a poker tournament, and Don Camillo just can’t stay away.
- Hunger Strike — Smilzo’s mother won’t eat until her new grandson is properly baptized.
- Peppone Goes back to School — The Mayor decides to try to pass the eighth grade, but he’ll need help.
- A Baby Conquers — Peppone opens his home to a child left on the doorstep of the People’s Palace.
- The Elephant Never Forgets — One of Peppone’s henchmen loses his vote in a card game and becomes desperate to recover it.
- The Best Medicine — Don Camillo collapses and ends up in the hospital; can Peppone help him recover?
- One Meeting After Another — The Little World’s various partisans seem equally adept at spoiling one another’s public rallies.
- Hammering It In — Don Camillo loses his temper and sends a hammer flying…
- Don Camillo Returns — He’s in exile again, but Don Camillo’s parishioners won’t die, be married, or have babies without him.
Roland F. Hirsch said:
This was the first Don Camillo book I read, given to me by my aunt in London. Thanks for describing it!