Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Don Camillo!

One of my strange little interests is "The Little World of Don Camillo" books by Giovanni Guareschi. First published in the early 50s, they have since gone out of print. However, they are wonderful and were quite popular, and actually, several movies were made out of the books. Basically, the series is about an Italian priest, Don Camillo, and his rivalry with a local Communist, Peppone. Of course, Don Camillo adheres strongly to the Catholic doctrine that comes down strongly against socialism; Peppone, while still showing up at Mass, having his baby baptized, and generally going in halfway with the Church, insists that "the People's Revolution is at hand!" etc. He has quite a strong following in the little town on the Po River, and sometimes the local Party can get a little bit out of hand in challenging religion. The priest, however, has Christ Himself for an active advisor, and of course, being an Italian, he responds to the Communists with great vigor ...

From Crime and Punishment:
...It was on Easter morning that Don Camillo had found a colossal chocolate egg tied up with a red silk ribbon on his doorstep. On closer inspection, it turned out to be a formidable egg that resembled chocolate but was actually a two-hundred-pound bomb shorn of its pins and painted a nice rich brown. The donor was not hard to guess, for there was a card attached which read "Happy Eester" and its receipt had been carefully planned. The church square thronged with people all eyeing Don Camillo and enjoying his discomfort.

Don Camillo kicked the egg which, naturally, remained immovable.

"It's pretty heavy!" someone shouted.

"Needs a bomb-removal squad!" suggested another voice.

"Try blessing it and see if it doesn't walk off of its own accord!" cried a third voice.

Don Camillo turned pale and his knees began to tremble. Then he bent down and with his immense hands grasped the bomb by its extremities.

"Lord!" whispered Don Camillo desperately.

"Heave ho! Don Camillo," replied a quiet voice that came from the high altar.

Slowly and implacably Don Camillo straightened his back with the enormous mass of iron in his hands. He stood for a moment contemplating the crowd and then set out. He left the church square and step by step, slow and inexorable as fate, crossed the big Square. The crowd followed in silence, amazed. On reaching the far end of the Square, opposite the Party headquarters, he stopped. And the crowd stopped, too.

"Lord," whispered Don Camillo desperately.

"Heave ho! Don Camillo," came a rather anxious voice from the now distant high altar of the church.

Don Camillo collected himself, then with one sudden movement brought the great weight up to his chest. Another effort and the bomb began slowly to rise higher, watched by the now frightened crowd.

One moment the bomb was poised above Don Camillo's head, the next it lay on the ground exactly in front of the Party headquarters.

Don Camillo looked at the crowd: "Returned to sender," he observed in a loud voice. "Easter is spelled with an A. Correct and redeliver."

The crowd made way for him, and Don Camillo returned triumphantly to the rectory...
Full story.

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