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The Leopard (1958)

by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,5281271,415 (4.09)429
A classic of modern fiction. Set in the 1860s, THE LEOPARD is the spellbinding story of a decadent, dying Sicilian aristocracy threatened by the approaching forces of democracy and revolution.
  1. 70
    Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann (roby72)
  2. 40
    The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth (Rebeki)
    Rebeki: 19th-century Europe, mourning of a lost era
  3. 30
    Swann's Way by Marcel Proust (chrisharpe)
  4. 41
    The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (Eustrabirbeonne)
  5. 41
    The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal (P_S_Patrick)
    P_S_Patrick: These two books have a fair bit in common, though much is different between them too. They both are set in Italy and are concerned with court and family life, with politics, and the state of the country at the time they were written. The Charterhouse is set mainly in the north, around Milan, Parma, and Lake Como, near the Swiss border, in the first half of the 19th Century. The Leopard is set in the South, much of it in Sicily, starting over halfway through the 19th Century and ending in the next one. Stendhal writes dramatically about adventures and high emotions, whereas Lampedusa is far less baroque about it and writes with greater reserve and elegance. Together these books complement each other and give the reader a reasonably balanced view of Italian life over around a 100 years. Readers are likely to prefer one book over the other, but I am sure that if they enjoyed one they are very likely to enjoy the other. There are passages in the Charterhouse that outshine the best in the Leopard, but I prefer the latter due to it being nearer to perfection when taken as a whole.… (more)
  6. 20
    Bomarzo by Manuel Mujica Lainez (pacocillero)
    pacocillero: Nos dous casos son mundos en decadencia aínda que con varios séculos de diferencia.
  7. 10
    Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa: A Biography Through Images by Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi (rvdm61)
  8. 21
    Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi (defaults)
  9. 21
    Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev (JamesAbdulla)
  10. 21
    The Viceroys by Federico De Roberto (roby72)
  11. 00
    Lanterns on the Levee: Recollections of a Planter's Son by William Alexander Percy (pitjrw)
    pitjrw: Two elegies to disappearing elites and the societies they led.
  12. 01
    The Stone Boudoir: Travels Through the Hidden Villages of Sicily by Theresa Maggio (marieke54)
    marieke54: Among those old villages: the inhabited remnants and replacements of Santa Margherita di Belice,(< earthquake 1968), Lampedusa's village. The other villages are like what St. M. once was.
  13. 01
    Shakespeare by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (Eustrabirbeonne)
  14. 13
    The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles (Eustrabirbeonne)
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» See also 429 mentions

English (88)  Italian (11)  Spanish (6)  Dutch (6)  French (4)  Catalan (3)  Swedish (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (2)  Danish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Portuguese (1)  German (1)  All languages (126)
Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
I wrote a long review saying I wish I could read Italian as some of the descriptions are amazing enough in translation. (It has disappeared in the ether.) One I mentioned was a swan on a pond filled with noisy frogs, and another was the dust left behind by a character who turns out to be so much more long lived, in a way, than we would imagine. This book was very sad even though some of the inhabitants are not worthy of pity. I did watch the film, and although it was somewhat true to the atmosphere, the book delved much deeper into the loss and confusion of the history of a family. I’m visiting Sicily next week and looking forward very much to finding out what it feels like there. ( )
  flemertown | Jul 10, 2021 |
NA
  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
Lampedusa’s novel The Leopard follows the life of Sicilian Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina, around the time of Garibaldi, mainly 1860–1862. Garibaldi led a minor revolution which the novel portrays as a superficial non-event, except that it served to create an image of change. Don Fabrizio highlights the façade of change in the line “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change” (28).

The meaning rings true through the ages—create the illusion of change in government to placate the people in order to ensure the stability of the status quo. People are satisfied by the illusion and go about their business. In fact, the revolution works in favor of the Prince, as he is ultimately unfazed by it, even though a sort of republic replaces a kind of monarchy.

Much of the novel focuses on the personality of the Prince of Salina Don Fabrizio. The Prince’s symbol is the Leopard, hence the title. He is both smart and strong, and sees through the theater of revolution, with the help of his nephew Tancredi. The Prince is disgusted by other cowardly members of the aristocracy for fleeing Sicily.

The novel beautifully captures the noble, the picturesque, and the sordid sides of Sicilian culture and society. As it’s a time of transition, the contrast of old and new plays a major role. The old, cultivated Prince and his Peers live among “faded gold, pale as the hair of Nordic children, determinedly hiding its value under a muted use of precious material intended to let beauty be seen and cost forgotten. Here and there on the panels were knots of rococo flowers in a color so faint as to seem just an ephemeral pink reflected from the chandeliers.” This atmosphere of “solar hue, that variegation of gleam and shade, made Don Fabrizio’s heart ache…” (224).

Conversely, a philistine industrial millionaire in the same room “was standing beside him [the Prince]; his quick eyes were moving over the room, insensible to its charm, intent on its monetary value” (225). The aged beauty of past’s aesthetic subtlety is held in contrast against “the flashy gilding which decorators slap on nowadays” (224).

The contrast is seen in people as well. Gauche ill-mannered youth appeared unbearably giggly, “a populous colony of these creatures had appeared … he felt like a keeper in a zoo set to looking after a hundred female monkeys … loosing a stream of shrieks and grins” (222). By contrast, the few still well-bred young women in the same house remained exquisite—they “glided by like swans over a frog-filled pool” (222).

The nauseating foolishness of cheap revolutions and cheapening culture are countered and alleviated by death. As the death knell tolls for a recently deceased townsman, the Prince observes “Lucky person … while there’s death, there’s hope” (72).

Don Fabrizio makes a lot of observations throughout the novel. Ideas such as “better to bore oneself than to bore others” (233) speak to the culture, where even in light entertainment, one gives rather than receives. Other quotes contrast subtle intelligence versus blustery know-it-alls of the nouveau riche: “a meal in common need not necessarily be all munching and grease stains”; “a conversation may well bear no resemblance to a dog fight; “to give precedence to a woman is a sign of strength and not of weakness”; and “sometimes more can be obtained by saying ‘I haven’t explained myself well’ instead of saying ‘I can’t understand a word’” (137).

After the post-revolution government was settled, they sent an emissary to invite the Prince to join the new Senate. After the emissary’s many attempts at persuasion, the Prince still declined. Senators, like all public officials, must be “good at masking their personal interests with vague public ideals … and clever enough to create illusions when needed” (181). The Prince leaves the government emissary with a parting comment, the famous quote from the novel, “We were the leopards, the lions, those who take our place will be jackals, hyenas” (185). He closes with, “and we’ll all go on thinking ourselves the salt of the earth” (185).

Ultimately, Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina, changes his feeling towards the young, from disgust, to compassion. “Don Fabrizio felt his heart thaw; his disgust gave way to compassion for all these ephemeral beings out to enjoy the tiny ray of light granted them between two shades, before the cradle, after the last spasms. How could one inveigh against those sure to die?” (226).
The reader experiences the joys, disappointments, victories, and the nausea that bear upon the heart of the Prince—who constantly searches inside himself, questioning the meaning of everything happening around him.

The novel is based on true events in the history of Italy of the 1860s, and the characters are based on real individuals of that time. Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina, is the great grandfather of the author Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. That fact gives the novel more interest, combining a great novelistic narrative with fascinating history.

The final chapters nicely followup with “how everyone turned out”—a sort of epilogue with the Prince’s eventual death twenty-six years later in 1888, and how his daughters are getting along as late as 1910, therefore spilling over into the lifetime and memory of the author.

The novel is considered a great work of literary art. But just as important, as a reader in 2017, I recommend it as a very entertaining read, with profound observations that speak clearly to today, and with a wealth of universal insights about travelling through life. ( )
  Coutre | Dec 23, 2020 |
Literary genius. Probably the most amazing literature I have read. Extraordinary. But a really hard read with patience required. ( )
  DannyKeep | Sep 10, 2020 |
So many of my friends on GR love this and I don't want to finish it. I dislike the stodgy writing style, the story is very obscure unless one knows far more than I do about the local politics of the period. Wooden characters which aren't well captured. I have no mind's eye view of any of them. It's impossible to warm to any of the characters.

Generally speaking I don't go for the line that if I don't like a book in translation that means the translation is bad, but here I do wonder if it's the case.

At any rate, I've been stuck between two books making me miserable and both are getting the flick. I'm moving on. I did read 100 pages or more, so I gave it a decent trot. The second star is for the odd nice line that perked me up...for brief unsustainable periods. ( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
What makes The Leopard an immortal book is that it kisses perfection full on the mouth. Its major theme – the workings of mortality – is explored with an intelligence and poignancy rarely equalled and never, to my knowledge, surpassed.
 
It is not a historical novel. It is a novel which happens to take place in history. Only once does a historical character intrude - King Bomba - and he is rapidly reduced to domestic proportions... I first read this noble book in Italian, but my knowledge of the language is too slight to enable me to judge Mr Archibald Colquhoun’s translation. It does not flow and glow like the original — how should it? — but it is sensitive and scholarly.
added by SnootyBaronet | editThe Spectator, E Forster
 
Il Gattopardo is not like a nineteenth-century novel. It goes by much more quickly than the film and is told with an ironic tone that in the film is entirely lacking. Lampedusa’s writing is full of witty phrase and color. It belongs to the end of the century of Huysmans and D’Annunzio, both of whom, although their subjects are so different from one another, it manages to suggest at moments. There are also little patches of Proust. The rich pasta served at the family dinner and the festive refreshments at the ball are described with a splendor of language which is rarely expended on food but which is in keeping with all the rest of Lampedusa’s half-nostalgic, half-humorous picture of a declining but still feudal princely family in Sicily in the sixties of the last century.
added by SnootyBaronet | editThe New Yorker, Edmund Wilson
 
While you are reading The Leopard, and particularly while you are rereading it, you are likely to feel that it is one of the greatest novels ever written. If this sense fades as you move away from the book, it is only because one's memory cannot fully retain the pungent artfulness of Lampedusa's brilliant sentences. The Leopard is a true novel: It has a fully formed central character, a narrative thrust that keeps you reading, even a historical grounding in the events surrounding Garibaldi's landing in Sicily and the creation of modern Italy. But unless you treat it essentially as a poem—unless you memorize its sentences as if they were lines by Keats, Hopkins, or Eliot (all of them, incidentally, poets whom Lampedusa adored)—the novel's power will dissipate with eerie rapidity the minute you finish reading. It is as ephemeral as the state of mind it chronicles, which is, in turn, part of a vanishing civilization, and no amount of nostalgic remembrance or effortful evocation will do it justice...

When Bassani contacted the widowed Principessa of Lampedusa to see if there were any more bits of the novel available, she offered him only the chapter about a ball. ("A ball is always a good thing," Bassani agreed—and how would Visconti ever have made his movie without it?) It was not until Bassani's subsequent visit to Palermo, made specifically to ferret out any other missing pieces, that he obtained from Lanza Tomasi the full manuscript, including the chapter about the priest. Licy never did feel happy about the publication of that chapter: Apparently, Lampedusa had expressed last-minute doubts about it. But it is impossible to imagine the finished book without it, and one is grateful to Bassani for his vigorous intervention. Like so much else in the history of this novel, this story seems to demonstrate that only a nearly random process could have yielded such perfection as its endpoint.
added by SnootyBaronet | editBookforum, Wendy Lesser
 

» Add other authors (36 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tomasi di Lampedusa, Giuseppeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aas, NilsIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Alexanderson, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Barreiros, José ColaçoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Birnbaum, CharlotteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Codignoto, LeonardoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Colquhoun, ArchibaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gutiérrez, FernandoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holder, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meli, RodolfoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Norum, Anna MargretheTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Romein-Hütschler, J.C.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Trevelyan, RaleighIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tuulio, TyyniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wis, RobertoIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
First words
'Nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.'
Quotations
Attribuire ad altri la propria infelicità è l'ultimo ingannevole filtro dei disperati.
He was sitting on a bench, inertly watching the devastation wrought by Bendicò in the flower beds; every now and again the dog would turn innocent eyes toward him as if asking for praise at labor done: fourteen carnations broken off, half a hedge torn apart, an irrigation canal blocked. How human! "Good! Bendicò, come here." And the animal hurried up and put its earthy nostrils into his hand, anxious to show that it had forgiven this silly interruption of a fine job of work.
The Prince was too experienced to offer Sicilian guests, in a town of the interior, a dinner beginning with soup, and he infringed the rules of haute cuisine all the more readily as he disliked it himself.
He began looking at a picture opposite him, a good copy of Greuze’s Death of the Just Man; the old man was expiring on his bed, amid welters of clean linen, surrounded by afflicted grandsons and granddaughters raising arms toward the ceiling. The girls were pretty, provoking, and the disorder of their clothes suggested sex more than sorrow; they, it was obvious at once, were the real subject of the picture.
Many problems that had seemed insoluble to the Prince were resolved in a trice by Don Calogero; free as he was from the shackles imposed on many other men by honesty, decency, and plain good manners, he moved through the jungle of life with the confidence of an elephant which advances in a straight line, rooting up trees and trampling down lairs, without even noticing scratches of thorns and moans from the crushed.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Isbn 8820114313 contains only Il gattopardo; the reference to La strega e il capitano comes from an Amazon's error.
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A classic of modern fiction. Set in the 1860s, THE LEOPARD is the spellbinding story of a decadent, dying Sicilian aristocracy threatened by the approaching forces of democracy and revolution.

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Book description
Don Fabrizio, principe di Salina, all'arrivo dei Garibaldini, sente inevitabile il declino e la rovina della sua classe. Approva il matrimonio del nipote Tancredi, senza più risorse economiche, con la figlia, che porta con sé una ricca dote, di Calogero Sedara, un astuto borghese. Don Fabrizio rifiuta però il seggio al Senato che gli viene offerto, ormai disincantato e pessimista sulla possibile sopravvivenza di una civiltà in decadenza e propone al suo posto proprio il borghese Calogero Sedara.
(piopas)
The Leopard is set in Sicily in 1860, as Italian unification is coming violently into being, but it transcends the historical-novel classification. E.M. Forster called it, instead, "a novel which happens to take place in history." Lampedusa's Sicily is a land where each social gesture is freighted with nuance, threat, and nostalgia, and his skeptical protagonist, Don Fabrizio, is uniquely placed to witness all and alter absolutely nothing. Like his creator, the prince is an aristocrat and an astronomer, a man "watching the ruin of his own class and his own inheritance without ever making, still less wanting to make, any move toward saving it." Far better to take refuge in the night skies.

What renders The Leopard so beautiful, and so despairing, is Lampedusa's grasp of human frailty and his vision of Sicily's arid terrain--"comfortless and irrational, with no lines that the mind could grasp, conceived apparently in a delirious moment of creation; a sea suddenly petrified at the instant when a change of wind had flung waves into frenzy." Though the author had long had the book in mind, he didn't begin writing it until he was in his late 50s. He died at 60, soon after it was rejected as unpublishable.
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