98 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Small but perfectly formed
I think this may be the nearest thing to a perrfect novel. It's set in Sicily around the time of the '100 days' - the beginning of Garibaldi's campaign to unite Italy (and extend the franchise along the way). The central character is an aging aristocrat. He is at once admirable, contemptible and pitiable. He is more aware than his peers that the power of his class is...
Published on 26 Feb 2005 by Jonathan Ward
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not great
This novel is very effective up until the halfway point, when it begins to feel like Lampedusa lost confidence in his story... and didn't know how to bring it to completion. The landings of Garibaldi, the social climbing of the Sedara family, the unorthodox courtship of Tancredi and Angelica... it's all expertly handled with highly evocative language and an impending...
Published 9 months ago by Rusty
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98 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Small but perfectly formed,
The book is a great work of art. Much is understated, implied, ambiguous. The revolution has bittersweet consequences: it is obvious what was gained, but something was lost (the author was also a count). So much is said in so few words. Occasionally the peaks of human artistry inspire awe: how can a person do this? This is such a peak. Paragraphs, pages even, are perfect.
84 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Novel of the 20th Century?,
49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Clear Vision,
At its heart, there is one character: Fabrizio Corbero, Prince of Salina, The Leopard. It is in the portrayal of this man, and through his eyes, that of Sicily and its people that the quality of The Leopard lies. Lampedusa's eye is very sharp and sensitive to the smallest fluctuations of mood and motive, to the currents of history that pass through, or by, the characters and to the contradictions that sit comfortably together in every moment. One example of many. Salina is out hunting with the parish priest and they bring down a rabbit. They are out of sight of any human habitation in a land that would have looked the same to the Phoenicians, Dorians and Ionians 2,000 years before. The two hunters approach the fatally wounded prey and Don Fabrizio is fixed upon by "eyes that showed no reproof, but were full of a stunned shock towards the whole order of things ... the animal was dying tortured by an anxious hope of salvation, imagining its escape when it was already done for, just like so many men...a shiver went through the small body and it died; Don Fabrizio and Tumeo had had their sport; the first had even felt, in addition to the thrill of killing, the comfort of compassion."
In the space of two paragraphs, one incident and a meeting of eyes, Lampedusa is able compress the relationship of a landscape to its inhabitants, the reactions of men to history, the smallness of individual lives, and yet also the greatness of one life passing and the contradictory feelings of those who have caused it to pass.
There is mush else in The Leopard: a love story combining cynicism, class survival and a powerful eroticism; a country tale involving Salina's 'house priest', the Jesuit Father Pirrone and his family; the frustrated lives of the daughters of the house; the rising middle classes. Each chapter is devoted to a day or couple of weeks stretching from June 1860 to 1910 - from the exploits of Garibaldi and the Thousand to last days of the spinster daughters and the fiftieth anniversary of the establisment of the Kingdom of Italy. Though there are lapses, particularly when the author gives way to the social theorist and delivers lectures on the qualities of the Sicilians and its aristocracy, the quality of vision that Lampedusa's writing grants to the reader makes this book one of the 20th Century masterpieces of Italian literature.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Unique Read,
A few minutes research on, say, Wikipedia, into the origins, nature and ultimate fate of the "Kingdom of the Two Sicilies" whose turbulent decline forms the landscape outside the palace walls is well repaid. Di Lampedusa certainly had the powers to delineate the "risorgimento" - the Italian war of unification - on the epic scale but chose to look at it, so to speak, down the other end of the telescope. This book could sit well with War and Peace as a document of human conflict but Di Lampedusa, being a brilliant miniaturist, keeps the soldiery offstage and the seat of the action is the inner world of Prince Fabrizio. I can hardly think of a character in literature so fully realised.
Fabrizio's central dilemma is this. On the political level he has sufficient acuteness to appreciate that the conversion of Italy from a ramshackle collection of teetering monarchies into a liberal, bourgeois whole may be as much a relief as a threat. What stops him from throwing in his lot with the "garibaldini" is a combination of inner fastidiousness and (we are told) the peculiarly Sicilian infection of inertia. He foresees the extinction of his own kind but accepts it as a kind of historical inevitability. On the personal level, Fabrizio's perceptiveness cuts him off from the largely lumpen and earthbound preoccupations of his own family and kind; he is not a happy man. The only diamond in the rough is his endearing but calculating nephew Tancredi, a main-chancer very acutely focussed on the opportunities afforded by the break-up of the ancien regime. Whilst admiring Tancredi's energy, Fabrizio himself feels a sense of bafflement, of dislocation from which he knows there is no earthly deliverance.
If the highest art for a writer is the ability to put in words, often few words, the half-realised but unexpressed ideas and feelings we all have, but only recognise when the words are before us, then this is high art. The book contains a number of wonderful set-pieces of writing of the most glorious quality. My favourite is the few pages where Tancredi and his new betrothed Angelica, throwing off their chaperone, explore room after dusty room of the Prince's massive, closed-up palace at Donnafugata, growing ever more remote from the inhabited part, each glance or touch a near-miss with premarital consummation. The sex-drenched mood is only broken by the ringing of the church bell and, quite suddenly, all is prosaic again.
Of course what makes all this remarkable is that, substantially, this was Di Lampedusa's only work. The introduction to this version of the book describes him, somewhat unfairly, as a "literary dilletante". Possibly it is for the best that he wrote nothing else. As the descendant of a Sicilian noble family himself he was uniquely equipped to construct the fabric of this book. He said more in one volume than most writers achieve in a lifetime's work.
Finally, enormous credit must go to the translator, Archibald Colquhoun, for the capture in English of what is clearly a finely nuanced work.
63 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel for all time,
It is against this historical background that the reader follows the life of Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina, a Sicilian aristocrat who watches impassively the ruin of his own class and his own inheritance. He is no less abated by the decline of his own prestige than the numerous prancing bewhiskered stone leopards adorning his palaces. One follows his worries about daughters, dowries, political careers and religious intrigues. He submits to endless little subterfuges, he the leopard who used to sweep away effortlessly difficulties with the wave of his paw. Don Fabrizio is surrounded by a multitude of hilariously grotesque characters with whom the author casts an amused but bitter glance at the Sicilian mentality. "The Sicilians never want to improve for the simple reason that they think themselves perfect; their vanity is stronger than their misery; every invasion by outsiders, whether so by origin, if Sicilian, by independence of spirit, upsets their illusion of achieved perfection, risks disturbing their satisfied waiting for nothing; having been trampled on by a dozen different peoples, they consider they have an imperial past which gives them a right to a grand funeral."
Giuseppe di Lampedusa painstakingly meditated for twenty-five years over his novel. He was sixty before he finally wrote it and he completed it a few months before his death in 1957. He was then told by an Italian editor that his novel is unpublishable!
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful, Devastating, Amazing Book,
I found it a deeply reflective book with many metaphors for our changing world today - and the impact of changing old regimes for new - class systems, ruling powers, business politics, different generations of people.
The characters feel real and timeless, and the book helps in understanding Sicilian culture and history and why the once-beautiful palaces were left to crumble.
The writing often appears to ramble-off in different directions with the abstract thinking of the characters - which at first I found a weakness of the book - but now I think this is its' strength - as you get inside the heads of the characters and realise their weaknesses, hang-ups and sources of despair.
The book has tremendous balance of light and dark - 'light' with flashes of beauty describing a garden, joy at dogs playing, decriptions of rooms, furnishings and food (described so well I could taste), situations or characters that made me laugh out loud - 'dark' with brooding passion, doom and depression, empty rooms in fading palaces with dark pasts, forgotten gardens, rotting corpses, death and decline. Many of the words and themes from the book remain with me post-reading - the book is meaningful and affected me at a deeper level.
The film of the book, however visually lavish, I found disappointing in comparison with the book itself. The film makes the main character too letcherous, does not give enough insight to the motivations and concerns of the characters (as you don't get the self-talk passages that carry the book along) and sadly it misses out the last two chapters (which I found the most moving and insightful - as these show what happens to the generations of characters by 1910).
I'm sad that Guiseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa did not write more books - however this one book is more powerful and memorable to me than lifetime works of most other writers put together.
Very highly recommended.
62 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and stunningly interesting,
By A Customer
Then, just last week, I told myself I was going to find out what all the fuss was about.
What a great move on my part.
True, The Leopard begins slowly, with sumptuous and often poetic descriptions of a land and a palace and a way of life. Slowly, though most deliberately, the books builds to a steady crescendo. It is a literary equivalent of Ravel's Bolero.
Through Lampudesa's magnificent language and, more important, his willingness to give his character a brutal honesty, we come to see the way a life is lived and a way of life is washed away forever. For as much as The Leopard is the story of one man, Don Fabrizio, it is also the story of the Sicilian nobles: sometimes cruel, sometimes benevolent, always interesting.
By the end of the book --- a stunning and ultimately completely satisfying ending, too --- you are wishing this story would just go on and on.
It's a wonderful book, and one that deserves immediate reading.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the young,
This review is from: The Leopard: Revised and with new material (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)I first read The Leopard in 1967, at the age of 24. It was a publishing sensation, and had reached its 9th UK paperback impression since 1963. It came trailing clouds of hype.
I was disappointed. It was not a *good read*. It was sombre, ironic and reflective in mood. My friends and I liked best the chapter "Love at Donnafugata" but even that seemed overly muted and rueful. Nevertheless, I felt it was a book I would re-read one day, and my copy accompanied me through life.
In due course I experienced Visconti's dazzling film version, arguably the most successful and faithful film re-creation of a great novel ever achieved. Over the years I saw the film three or four times, and at last, in my sixties, I got round to reading my copy again.
Now it all made sense. As a reflection on life, by someone who had fully lived, it was profound, compassionate and fearsomely clear-sighted. On finishing it, I wanted to read it yet again - it is not a book that is exhausted by one reading. So I have bought a new copy, with a clearer typeface. It is a detail that Lampedusa would have appreciated!
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful haunting masterpiece,
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A late-blooming classic, totally rewarding and enjoyable,
I am not a great one for historical fiction, and the theme of this one (the decline of the Sicilian nobility after the unification of Italy in the late 19th century) would normally leave me cold. However, the book is above all about personalities, and the history is not laboured, and only in a way which enhances the story of the main characters, Don Fabrizio Salina, a minor (though wealthy) Prince, and his family members.
Fabrizio is baronial in his behaviour, managing estates and property and employing many servants. But he is also a philosopher who sees the decline of his class, and accepts the many changes which happen around him. I knew little of Garibaldi before reading this book, but I now know how this republican leader gallantly led the Italian states to form a new nation. In this novel we read how Fabrizio adapted to the changing political circumstances and accepted the new regime with a degree of grace. Fabrizio is basically a kind man, and sees that it is not principles which are at stake, but people, many of whom are dear to him.
But the book is not only about political change, far from it, but tells many human stories, not least the marriage of his nephew Tancredi who makes what at first seems to be an unsuitable match which causes considerable upset among his relatives. We read of the family's chaplain, and the impact of change on his own life, and also of the effects on the peasants and townsfolk too, as their fortunes go up and down.
Perhaps the main character after Fabrizio is Sicily itself. Lampedusa describes the arid summers and the almost desert-like landscapes of this baking country. The city of Palermo features in all its squalor, and also the smaller towns on which most of the narrative occurs.
Best of all, the novel is not concerned only with a small timescale but reaches out into the 20th century so the reader can see "what happened next". The end is moving, and brings to mind something of Captain Corelli returning to the Greece to take Pelagia for a ride on the pillion of his motorcycle.
Don't miss this book, nor be put off by its age, its obscure historical situation of the obscurity of its author. It really is first-rate and will remain with you long after you finish the last page.
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The Leopard: Revised and with new material (Vintage Classics) by Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa (Paperback - 6 Sep 2007)