1 May 2016

Giovanni Guareschi – writer

Satirical magazine editor first used Don Camillo to fill a gap

Photo of Giovanni Guareschi
Giovanni Guareschi created the character of
Don Camillo for the satirical magazine he ran
Author Giovanni Guareschi, the creator of the fictional character, Don Camillo, was born on this day in 1908 in Roccabianca in Emilia-Romagna.

The popular stories featuring his famous comic creations, the stalwart Italian priest, Don Camillo, and the Communist mayor, Peppone, have since been made into many radio and television programmes and films.

Guareschi, who was christened Giovannino, started his career writing for the Gazzetta di Parma and then became a magazine editor.

He was called up to serve in the army in 1943 but was quickly taken prisoner, along with other Italian soldiers, by the Germans. He wrote a secret diary while he was in the prison camp, Diario Clandestino.

After the war Guareschi founded a weekly satirical magazine, Candido, where his Don Camillo stories first appeared. He had written the introductory story for another publication but lifted it to fill a gap in Candido at the last minute.

His magazine criticised and satirised the Communists but after they were beaten in the 1948 elections he turned his attentions to the Christian Democrats instead.

The magazine published a satirical cartoon poking fun at the president, Luigi Einaudi, which was judged by a court to be 'contempt of the president' and after Guareschi had subsequently been charged with libelling a former prime minister, Alcide de Gasperi, he was sent to prison.

When Guareschi was released, his health started to deteriorate and he had to spend time in Switzerland recuperating. He retired from editing Candido, although he remained a contributor until he died in 1968 after a heart attack.

Photo of Castello di Roccabianca
The Castello di Roccabianca, built in 1450
Travel tip:

Roccabianca, where Guareschi was born, is a comune to the northwest of Parma, which takes its name from the castle (rocca) built there in the 1450s by Pier Maria Rossi, which has been restored and is now open to the public.

Travel tip:

Guareschi is buried in the graveyard of the church of San Michele in Le Roncole, the village near Bussetto in Emilia-Romagna where the composer Giuseppe Verdi was born.

(Photo of the Castello di Roccabianca by Antonio Pedroni CC BY-SA 2.0)


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