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Lampedusa's classic novel opens in May 1860, when Garibaldi landed in Sicily to bring the struggle for the unification of Italy southwards. the leopard of the title is Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina, apparently based at least loosely on the author's own grandfather. He sees that the revolution means the end of the aristocratic way of life and the vulgarization inherent in a mass culture. He dreads the prospect but his favorite nephew, Tancredi, thinks that by joining with Garibaldi they can control events:
Unless we ourselves take a hand now, they’ll foist a republic on us. If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.
Don Fabrizio is right, of course, as Tancredi's eventual marriage to a shopkeeper's daughter demonstrates.

Lampedusa follows Don Fabrizio episodically until his death in 1888, when it's obvious that he's the last of his breed:
For the significance of a noble family lies entirely in its traditions, that is in its vital memories; and he was the last to have any unusual memories, anything different from those of other families.
A coda, set in 1910, shows what becomes of the estate he left behind

The novel was published posthumously, and somewhat incomplete, having been rejected as unpublishable. But it became a phenomenon, attacked by the Left as reactionary and by the Church for being anti-clerical. It's slow-moving, elegiac, sometimes awfully obscure to a 21st century American reader. But it's also haunting and mioving in its cumulative effect, reminiscent of Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion in its depiction of the inevitable march of modernization and democratization and in its politically incorrect refusal to concede that this march does not destroy much that's worthwhile along the way.


Grade: (B+)


See also:

Giuseppe Lampedusa Links:

    -Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (1896-1957) (kirjasto)
    -ESSAY: Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (Michele Parisi, Best of Sicily)
    -BIO: Biography of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (RAI International)
    -ESSAY: Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa Il Gattopardo: A Legend is Reborn (Francesco Troiano, RAI International)
    -Washington Post Book Club: 'The Leopard' (Francis Tanabe, June 26, 2003, Washington Post Book World)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Champagne Flute with an Iron Spine: Dystopia and Providence in Five Novels (Eve Tushnet, 3/01/20, Kirk Center)
    -ESSAY: Donnafugata Dilemmas: Reading ‘The Leopard’ Again (Randy Boyagoda, July 22, 2020, Commonweal)
    -ESSAY: Guide to the Classics: The Leopard: A family saga, a psychological novel, a meditation on death and on the loss of collective memory. (Giorgia Alù, Jul 2, 2020, MercatorNet)
    -REVIEW: of The Leopard (Jonathan Jones, The Guardian )
    -REVIEW: of The Leopard (Rich Horton)
    -REVIEW: of The Leopard (Sebastian Skeaping, Life Changing Books)
    -REVIEW: of The Leopard (Parco Letrerario)
    -REVIEW: of The Professor and the Mermaid (Michele Parisi, Best of Sicily)

    -FILMOGRAPHY: Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa (
    -The Criterion Collection: The Leopard
    -INFO: The Leopard (1963) (
    -INFO: The Leopard (BFI)
    -INFO: The Leopard (NY Times)
    -REVIEW: The Leopard (Michael Wood, Criterion)
    -REVIEW: of The Leopard (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
    -REVIEW: of The Leopard (CHRISTOPHER BORRELLI, Toledo Blade)

Book-related and General Links: