The Leopard by Tomasi Di Lampedusa

This is Probably the most well known Italian classic .It is a set text in Italian school I was told by Hersilla press the new Italian crime press .Tomasi  was the 11th prince of Lampedusa this was his only novel and was published after his death in the late fifties this was also made into a film by Visconti starring Burt Lancaster he loved the book and was dubbed into Italian for his performance as the Prince .

The book is based in Scilly in the YEAR 1860 and follows a real event and some real people mixed with fiction characters .The main character is the prince of salina ,he is faced with a huge change in his life as Garibaldi red shirts are en route to Scilly to bring it into the Italian unification movement as Giuseppe Garibaldi fought to topple the feudal system that was still part of Italy at the time .So we find a man facing a uncertain values in regards his place in society  but also a changing society round him .The course of the book follows the prince journey dealing with this travelling round the island meeting his mistress and his good friend Father Pirrone that gives him some wonderful advice with what to do about his future .

The old man looked at him with amazement ,he had wanted to know if the prince of Salina was satisfied or not with the latest changes ,and the other was talking to him about aphrodisiacs and light for Golgotha .all that reading driven him off his head poor man .

a section from chapter with Father Pirrone and the Prince talking .

The book has a highly personnel feel given Tomasi family history been from a royal family parts of this story must relate to his own ,Also I thing there is some connection to modern Italy at the time it was written ,just after the end of the second world war ,like the Italy of the 1860’s it was in a state of flux .The leopard is part of Tomasi own coat of arms ,The volume I have is the new Vintage edition that includes some separate pieces that were found after the book was published these include sonnets written by Don Fabrizio the prince these add to the book I like the fact that they haven’t been thrown in to the original text ,but the fact that Tomasi had written them and left them to maybe add at some point is wonderful .The book was originally meant to be an Italian version of Joyce’s Ulysses and set over a day but instead it is slices of time over the course of 1860’s .Now I can watch the film it was on over christmas but I left it as I want to read the book .May I also point out at no point was the Garibaldi biscuit mentioned I do wonder how his name got attached to this biscuit .This book was recently picked by our deputy prime minister Nick Clegg as his desert Island book .after reading I can see why it is a wonderfully written book that would stand numerous rereading .

Have you read this book ?

January 2011


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