Now, I will tell you all about myself.
The 1st of May 1908 at Fontanelle di Roccabianca, a joyful village in the lower region of Parma, in one of the small houses facing the square a girl by the name of Ermelinda came to light. It wasn’t me: I was born in the same village on the 1st of May 1908, but in a house on the other side of the square, later I was given the name of Giovannino.
My mother was a teacher, my father ruined himself with a trade centre. My parents had decided that I should become a naval engineer and so I ended up studying law and thus, in a short time, I become famous as a signboard artist and caricaturist.
Since no one at school had made me study drawing, drawing naturally had a particularly fascination for me and, after doing caricatures and public advertisements, I studied wood-carving and scenic design.
At the same time I kept busy as a doorman taker in a sugar refinery, a superintendent in a parking lot for bicycles, and since knew nothing at all about music I began to give mandolin lessons to some friends.I had an excellent record at a census taker. I was teacher in a boarding school and then I got a job correcting proof of a local newspaper. To supplement my modest salary I began to write stories about local events, and since I had a free day on Sunday I took over the editorship of the weekly magazine which come out of Monday.
One fine day I took a train and went to Milan were I worked editor-in-chef into a humor magazine called “Bertoldo”. This is the magazine in which Saul Steinberg, who at that time was studying architecture in Milan, published his first drawings and for which he worked until he left to go to America.
For reasons entirely beyond my control the war broke out and one day in 1942 I went on a terrific drunk because my brother was lost in Russia and find out anything on him. That night I went up and down the streets of Milan shouting things which filled several of legal-size paper as I found out the next day when I was arrested by the political police. Then a lot of people worried about me and finally got me released. However the political police wanted me out the circulation and so called me into the Army, and on the 9th of September 1943, with the fall of Fascism, I was taken prisoner again, this time at Alessandria in Northern of Italy. Since I did not want to work for the Germans I was sent in a Polish concentration camp. I was in various German concentrations camp until April 1945, when my camp was taken over by the English and after five months, I was sent back to Italy… (from Giovannino Guareschi, Autobiography)
On returning home from the German concentrations camp in 1945, Giovannino Guareschi founded a new magazine, “Candido”, that would publish literary pieces, drawings, and commentary, able to take on overtly political targets.
Among the important national questions to be settled in Italy at the War’s end, there was the fate of the Monarchy, and a referendum held in 1946 resulted in the transformation of the Kingdom of Italy into the Italian Republic. Guareschi and his magazine had unsuccessfully supported the King. In 1948, Alcide De Gasperi and the Christian Democrats did defeat the Communists in the national elections, with the indispensable aid of the magazine of Giovannino Guareschi. In the magazine appeared in a weekly series of humorous tales the characters of don Camillo and Peppone that, collected in many books, have had a declared international success. Don Camillo and Peppone continued to delight their fans (who ranged from peasants to Popes), both in print and on the big screen (in a series of films with Fernandel and Gino Cervi as the beloved priest and mayor).
In the early 1950’s, Guareschi decided to move his family from Milan to the village of Roncole Verdi near Parma, in the lands where he was born. In 1954 Guareschi published on “Candido”, after having them declared as true by an expert, two letters proving Alcide De Gasperi’s responsibility in some events during wartime.
Guareschi was attacked by De Gasperi for a judgement and then was sentenced for contempt at 13-month in jail in Parma. Demoralized by this experience, GG was also experiencing health problems.
In 1957 Guareschi was discharged from “Candido” Director continuing to work as a simple collaborator.
In 1961, the Publishing House of the “Candido” closed the magazine. This was a severe blow to GG that, in 1962 had suffered a heart attack.
Recovery was hard and took some time; Giovannino of course continued to write, in the magazine “Oggi” and “Il Borghese”, and also by sending drawings to the newspaper “La Notte”.
Then, Giovannino Guareschi’s distinctive voice was silenced by a fatal heart attack in the summer of 1968, at the age of 60.