Giovannino Guareschi

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Giovannino Guareschi was born a hundred years ago on 1 May. He sold twenty million copies abroad. No one more than him. Guareschi was above all a free man. Hated by politicians on the right and the left. The offspring of Guareschi want to remember his works with “Il club dei ventitrè” which has its base at Roncole Verdi. Those with a subscription receive every so often a newspaper, il Fogliaccio, dedicated to Giovannino. In the most recent edition the offspring talk about his life. Guareschi spent two years in the German concentration camps because he refused to support the Republic of Salò. To make up for that the Christian Democrat government condemned him twice. The second time for having published two letters attributed to De Gasperi that speculated about the involvement in a request for American bombing to demoralize the collaborators of the Germans. Guareschi was sentenced to 409 days in prison for not having wanted to appeal.


From Il Fogliaccio number 53, April 2008:

”Then one Sunday afternoon he received the visit of a person who had to hand him some documents: the photocopies of two letters of De Gasperi that he published on 20 and 27 January 1954 with a strong comment. In early February, De Gasperi brought a libel action against our father. The trial was set in motion and after two postponements, on 13 and 14 April the second and third hearings took place and on 15 April he was convicted of defamation. He didn’t appeal and on 26 May he went into the prison of San Francesco di Parma, and he came out on 4 July 1955 (409 days later) on probation. On 26 January 1956 the period of probation ended. Our comment: our father, brought to court by De Gasperi with “ample facility to present evidence”, handed over to the Tribunal the letters accompanied by an expert witness statement on calligraphy that bore witness to the authenticity and that was not taken into consideration.

In the trial the “ample facility to present evidence”, was basically not allowed him, it was denied him because he wasn’t allowed the new forensic evidence nor were witnesses in his favour listened to.

On the basis of witness statements in favour of De Gasperi, of his moral alibi and of his swearing that the letters were false, the Tribunal decided that they had reached the “historical proof” and they sentenced him to a year in prison for defamation. The sentence highlighted the fact that, even in the event of handwriting evidence in favour of the defendant, “a simple affirmation from the expert would not have been able to make it credible and certain that which objectively resulted to be impossible and implausible.” Offended by this obvious injustice that prevented him from defending himself, he decided not to appeal. The day before the deadline for presenting the appeal, our father was in his office in his home in via Righi in Milano where he had finished his weekly work for the newspaper and he was about to take it to the Rizzoli printers two steps from the house.


Our mother, who, as usual had gone with him to Milan, came up to his office to tell him that downstairs there was Mario Scelba (President of the Council and Minister of the Interior ad interim) who wished to speak to him. “Tell him I cannot come down as I have to finish the newspaper” he said, and so our mother passed on the message to Scelba, who after a long and useless wait of a couple of hours, went off furious.

Our parents went back to le Roncole where a couple of hours late they met up with Pòlden Sgavetta, the family carpenter with whom they had an appointment at his home for a meal. Our father explained to Pòlden the reason for the delay and concluded: “I walked up and down in my office for 2 hours and I smoked two packets of cigarettes, but that one…. went off empty-handed. Because Scelba would have wanted to persuade me to appeal because it was certain that there would have been an absolution for insufficient evidence.”

An absolution that for one who had a guilty conscience, could have been OK, but for him, who was convinced (as we are convinced) that he was right as the letters were authentic, it would have been defamatory because it would have left the shadow of doubt over him….

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