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For those who’ve lost count, we’ve reached the fifth volume of Don Camillo in English. US & UK Fans waited seven years — the longest gap in the series — for this 1964 follow-up to Don Camillo Takes the Devil By the Tail, but they surely must have felt Comrade Don Camillo was worth it. Reading more like an actual novel than the usual loose connection of stories, and with a mood as timely as it was timeless, this book also had the distinction of being the first to take our Po Valley heroes out of their familiar milieu.  

Comrade Don Camillo, by Giovanni Guareschi.
Copyright Rizzoli Editore, 1963; copyright Giovanni Guareschi, 1964. First published in Italy in 1963 as Mondo Piccolo: Il Compagno Don Camillo. Translated by Frances Frenaye. NEW YORK: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, Inc.; 1964. First published in Great Britain by Victor Gollancz, Ltd.; 1964.

DC World

Summary:
In his most audacious adventure yet, Don Camillo makes an undercover trip to the USSR during the height of the Khrushchev era. How? It all comes about under the reluctant offices of Peppone, who has become a Senator and is now a man of some influence in Rome. His new rank doesn’t keep him from being bested by Don Camillo in one of their little skirmishes, however, and the price of defeat this time is high: the former mayor must arrange for his friendly enemy to have a place (incognito, of course) on a team of Italian comrades (including Peppone) who’ve been specially invited to study firsthand the glories of Soviet communism. But “Comrade Don Camillo” has his own agenda…

Notes:
As noted above, Comrade is the first of the Don Camillo books which really feels like a novel. Of course, the chapters can be read as self-contained serial episodes, but together they compose a coherent larger story, complete with climax, denouement, and even a little character development.

The book is a translation of the third Don Camillo book in Italian, Mondo Piccolo: Il Compagno Don Camillo. The Italian audience had waited even longer between DC books than did the English-language one — ten years, in fact.

Chapter Synopses:

  • Gold Fever — A repeat of “The Gold Rush” (from Don Camillo’s Dilemma), in which “Pepito Sbezzeguti” wins the lottery.
  • Don Camillo’s Revenge — Now a Senator, Peppone finds his clandestine lottery winnings coming back to haunt him.
  • Don Camillo in Disguise — “Camillo Tarocci” has joined Peppone’s group of Italian Communists on a tour of Russia.
  • Operation Rondella — Don Camillo exploits an Italian comrade’s national pride to effect his “return to the fold.”
  • A Forced Rest — Don Camillo goads Peppone over a razor, while Comrade Scamoggia makes time with the Russian translator.
  • The Space Cell — The Italians form a cell, and a soon-to-be-ex-comrade is disciplined for black market trading.
  • Politics on the Road — The comrades tour Russian farms and discuss religious freedom.
  • Christ’s Secret Agent — Don Camillo and Peppone meet a reluctant Italian expatriate, and some sacraments are administered.
  • The Rains Came to Stay — The cell enjoys a party, another expatriate appeals to Don Camillo for help, and Cupid’s arrows fly.
  • Three Stalks of Wheat — Don Camillo says a Mass for the Dead.
  • The Cell Goes to Confession — Having won the trust of the other cell members, Comrade Tarocci dispenses advice.
  • In the Jaws of Hell — Another Italian-in-exile finds Comrade Don Camillo and makes a confession.
  • Comrade Nadia’s Coffee — A comrade seeks his past love, while the Russian translator investigates her new Italian beau.
  • The Next-to-Last Wave — The cell members take a boat trip, and in dire extremity remember their God.
  • A Story That Has No End — A few epilogues, and a wedding
  • A Note from the Author — Sad and bitter comments by Guareschi on a world which seemed to have stopped caring
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