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Giovanni Guareschi

Giovanni Guareschi (1908-1968) Italian journalist and humorist author whose most famous creation is a priest Don Camillo.

Giovannino Guareschi was born in Fontanelle di Roccabianca, near Parma, Italy into a middle-class family. 1926 his family went bankrupt and he could not continue his studies. After an unsuccessful try in the University of Parma he worked for some odd jobs before he started to write for a local newspaper. In 1929 he became editor of the satiric magazine Corriere Emiliano and 1936-1943 he was the chief editor of the similar magazine called Bertoldo.

During the World War Two, he criticized Mussolini’s government. 1943 he was drafted into army, which apparently helped him to avoid trouble with the fascist authorities. He ended up as an artillery officer.

When Italy signed the armistice with Allies troupes in 1943, he was in the Eastern front and was arrested and locked into a prison camps in Poland for three years alongside other Italian soldiers. He later wrote about this time in Diario Clandestino (Clandestine Diary).

After the war, Guareschi returned to Italy and founded a monarchist satirical magazine Candido. After Italy became a republic, he began to support Democrazia Cristiana. He criticized and satirized communists in his magazine. Communists were soundly defeated in the 1948 Italian elections. Guareschi, however, did not put his pen down but criticized Democrazia Cristiana as well.

His book publisher shortened his name Giovannino for Giovanni because they thought it was a nickname; literally it means “little Giovanni”. He came to be better known with this name.

In 1964 Guareschi was charged with libel after he had published a apparent fake wartime letter of then-resistance leader Alcide De Gasperi (post-war prime minister) where he told Allies to bomb Rome in order to demoralize German collaborators. Guareschi was sentenced for 14 months in Parma prison but was released early for good behavior.

1956 his health had deteriorated and he began to spend time in Switzerland for health reasons. In 1957 he retired from the post of editor of Candido but remained a contributor. In 1968 he suffered a fatal heart attack.

Some books (aside from Don Camillo):