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253 of 263 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great novel, beautifully written and very moving
I approached The Leopard with high expectations which were thoroughly satisfied. The novel, apparently based on the life of di Lampedusa's great-grandfather, is the story of a proud, sensual, Sicilian aristocrat at the time of Italy's Risorgimento (1860 or thereabouts), and his reaction to the changes he sees in his society: mainly the inevitable, indeed necessary,...
Published on September 5, 2000 by Richard R. Horton

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73 of 83 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Important Novel
Giuseppe Di Lampedusa wrote only one novel ('The Leopard') in his lifetime and that too was published posthumously. Thus one of the most important 20th century novel in the Italian language was never seen in print by the author himself.

The novel is situated during the time of the Italian re-unification, the rise of Garibaldi and his Red Shirt movement and the...
Published on September 11, 2005 by Bhupinder Singh


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253 of 263 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great novel, beautifully written and very moving, September 5, 2000
By 
Richard R. Horton (Webster Groves, MO United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Leopard (Paperback)
I approached The Leopard with high expectations which were thoroughly satisfied. The novel, apparently based on the life of di Lampedusa's great-grandfather, is the story of a proud, sensual, Sicilian aristocrat at the time of Italy's Risorgimento (1860 or thereabouts), and his reaction to the changes he sees in his society: mainly the inevitable, indeed necessary, but still in some ways regrettable displacement of the aristocracy from their traditional position. The title character is a wonderful creation, and the lesser characters about him (his wife and children, his favorite nephew, the Jesuit priest Father Pirrone, and so on), are also very elegantly depicted. The Sicilian countryside, and telling details of social life at that time period, are also fascinating elements of the book. And finally, the prose is wonderful, and this translation seems very good, save for just a couple mild moments of clunkiness.
The Leopard is the story of Don Fabrizio, Prince of Salina, at the time of the main action a man in his forties, with several children. He is a sort of benevolent tyrant in his household, a man of a very old family, accustomed to knowing his place and to having those about him know their places. The Prince is also a man of great sensual appetites, careless with his money (though not wasteful or dissolute), politically knowledgeable but completely apolitical in action, and also an amateur astronomer of some note.
When the story opens, the Risorgimento is ongoing, but it is clear that it will be ultimately successful, and that the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies will be absorbed into the newly unified, somewhat more democratic, Italy. Don Fabrizio, out of loyalty, is nominally supportive of the old regime, but he realistically stays out of the conflict. His favorite nephew, Tancredi, the penniless but charismatic son of his sister, is an ardent supporter of Garibaldi (leader of the revolution).
Several long chapters, separated by months, follow the progress of the Risorgimento at a distance, and more closely follow events which impinge directly on Don Fabrizio's life, yet which reflect the coming societal changes. These include the plebiscite to confirm popular support for the unification of Italy, his nephew Tancredi's love affair and eventual marriage to the daughter of a wealthy but decidedly lower class neighbor, his daughter's reaction to the attentions of a friend of Tancredi's, and Father Pirrone's visit to his home village. Finally, the action jumps forward some decades to the Prince's death, in a very moving and beautiful chapter, then still further forward to the household of his unmarried daughters in their old age.
The events of the story tellingly illustrate both the changing face of society and also the nature of Sicilian society in general. At another level, the Prince's aging and death, and his knowledge of his own mortality, echo the senescence of his class. Loving descriptions of the Prince's homes, of his meals, of balls, of hunting, of peasant life, of politics both at the Prince's level and at the level of the peasants, of the attitude of churchmen towards their flock (especially Father Pirrone's toleration but not approval of his friend's sensual escapades) are laced throughout the novel. Moreover, the Prince himself is a truly compelling, charismatic character, full of faults but an admirable man nonetheless. Also, the narrator's voice is often with us, ironically, often even cynically, commenting on the expectations of the characters and both their failings and the failings of "real life" to meet their expectations, but, though sad, the voice is never bitter.
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59 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rich description, wonderful characters, great writing!, April 13, 2002
I know little of Italian politics or history, but that didn't keep me from being swept up in the story, whose well-drawn characters inhabited a feudal landscape that was inevitably fading away. Don Fabrizio, a prince in Sicily, is at the peak of his power in 1860, living a life of luxury with his wife and seven children and taking the appeasement of his sensual appetites with other women as a given, despite his wife's tears. But around him swirl the winds of war and change, as Garibaldi's army is sweeping through Sicily and there are changes that challenge his way of life. He resents the upstart commoner who is making a fortune by buying the land and yet still is willing to arrange a match between his nephew and the commoner's beautiful daughter, Angelica. There is a great scene where this marriage arrangement takes place, which is ripe with the subtleties of class.
The writing is rich in descriptive texture. I could almost smell the fragrance of the garden and touch the extravagant furnishings of the estates. This sets the stage for the very real people who taste the dust of long carriage rides as well as dress in silk and attend great balls. I learned about the politics of the time, the role of the church and the view of the world as perceived by the privileged few for the fifty-year time span of the book, which concludes in 1910. It was a deeply satisfying read. Highly recommended.
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73 of 83 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Important Novel, September 11, 2005
This review is from: The Leopard (Paperback)
Giuseppe Di Lampedusa wrote only one novel ('The Leopard') in his lifetime and that too was published posthumously. Thus one of the most important 20th century novel in the Italian language was never seen in print by the author himself.

The novel is situated during the time of the Italian re-unification, the rise of Garibaldi and his Red Shirt movement and the decline and subsequent transformation of the feudal nobility in the late nineteenth century. Di Lampedusa was himself was himself a descendent of one the noble families and the story that he narrates is ostensibly that of his grandfather. 'The Leopard' is the symbol of the family of which Prince Fabrizio, the principal character in the novel, is the head.

The novel reminded me of a couple of other such works, one of which is surely the Century in Scarlet by the Hungarian writer Lajos Zilahy. Both deal with more or less the same theme, though from somewhat different sides. Zilahy's novel too deals with the coming into being of the Hungarian nation in the twentieth century- thus both deal with the coming into being of modern nation states and identities of two nations that were probably at the far end of the nation forming processes that were set into motion a century or more earlier in some of the other European states. I am not sure how comprehensive the novels are from a sociological or political point of view, but both do provide the nearest equivalent in a literary form.

Both the novels are very straightforward in nature and though written in the 20th century, they are in the nature of the 19th century novel, with a linear narrative structure and few complexities in terms of the underlying ideas they seek to communicate. The style is closest to Balzac's, more in case of The Leopard than perhaps The Century in Scarlet. This is not the place to go in for a deeper analysis of The Century in Scarlet, but here are a few words on The Leopard.

The story is straight forward, that of Prince Fabrizio who is forced to relinquish the control of his estates in the light of the advance of Garbaldi's republican forces. His ambitious nephew Tancredi moves over to the new forces, calculatedly marrying the daughter of a rising rich, though uncouth merchant Don Calogero who is eager to establish a 'lineage' for himself by marrying into the family of a noble, in the process spurning Fabrizio's own daughter's hand . "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", he informs his uncle, even as he looks at his uncle with the 'affectionate irony that youth accords to age'.

That Prince Fabrizio aids and abets his nephew in his cunning endeavors speaks much of the Prince's own instinct for survival. "The bourgeois revolution climbing his stairs in Don Calogero's tail coat", as the Prince thinks while observing Don Calogero in his house.

And historically speaking he is right, the decline of the nobility is complete and the power has shifted decisively in favour of the commercial bourgeoise, with the corresponding shift from the monarchy to a republic and the ideological shift from the church- when the nobility's land is ostensibly 'the patrimony of the poor'- to the republican ideals.

With the story being as simple as that what holds the reader is the author's effusive description of some of the lesser known areas of Europe- Siciliy in this case. Added to that is the author's deep insight into human nature, which renders the novel a universal appeal and finally his smooth, delectable, almost tropical prose. His metaphors are particularly imaginative and I suppose that probably owes something to the richness of the original language itself.

Here is a description of the Prince's family as they sit down for dinner:

"The girls plump, glowing, with gay dimples, and between the forehead and the nose the frown which was the hereditary mark of the Salinas; the males slim but wiry, wearing an expression of fashionable melancholy as they wielded knives and forks with subdued violence."

And that of the Prince Fabrizio himself:

"...in his blood also fermented other German strains particularly disturbing to a Sicilian aristocrat in the year 1860, however attractive his fair skin and hair amid all that olive and black: an authoritarian temperament, a certain rigidity in morals and a propensity for abstract ideas; these in the relaxing atmosphere of Palermo society, had changed respectively into capricious arrogance, recurring moral scruples, and contempt for his own relatives and friends, all of whom seemed to him mere driftwood in the languid meandering stream of Sicilian pragmatism... Between the pride and intellectuality of his mother and the sensuality and irresponsibility of his father, poor Prince Fabrizio lived in perpetual discontent under his Jovelike frown, watching the ruin of his own class and his own inheritance without ever making, still less wanting to make any move toward saving it."

This in essence also sums up the novel itself.

There are a number of insightful sentences that are a delight for a reader. Though the novel may beg comparison with, say, a 'War and Peace', to say nothing of a novel like Mario Vargas Llosa's 'The War of the End of the World' which is far more complex in the treatment of a similar theme. Nevertheless 'The Leoprad' establishes itself as a minor classic of the 20th century and hence an important novel to those trying to understand the evolution of nations in an era that seems to be dissolving a number of attributes of what have been associated with the nation and national identities.
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78 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ASTOUNDING AND SUBLIME, August 9, 2008
This review is from: The Leopard: A Novel (Paperback)
Guido Waldman's traslation of Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi's introduction is a boon for the literary scene. Lampedusa's nephew, runs a detailed history of the the novel's publication and more importantly here included are passages Lampedusa wrote for the book that were omitted by the original Italian editors and subsequent English versions.

To read Di Lampedusa in Italian is like reading Proust in French, which is to say it is characterized by a melodious dalliance that lulls and swells in dreamscapes of intellectual brilliance. Guido Waldman, whose efforts include the Oxford edition of Ariosto's "Orlando Furioso" (not an enviable task - imagine translating into a collected allegorical prose Spencer's "Faery Queen"), invariably paces the rhythm of the English in a comparable rendition, while attuning the lyricism in delicate cadances.

"The Leopard" represents a command of style and a robust poetic affluence that is exceptional. The vigour and audacity of the novel is never compromised throughout its scope and vision, and moreover it is persistently haunted by spectres of an apocalyptic doom loitering lustfully. To read this novel is to witness the expression of a community in distress as it finds itself fidgeting to keep its composure while arrested amidst a stalemate, as it were a cultural limbo. Giuseppe Di Lampedusa fashions a circumventing microcosmic portrait that is nostalgic and entertaining. Episodes of ribaldry abound yet they always steer clear of expressing disrespect for a tradition and a cultural milieu that preserves its ambiguity and its inconsolable propriety. The discomfort of the probing characters is strung and picked so as to strike a melodious ravishment that transgresses all values and disarms the structural apogee of the narrative. In its many particulars, and brusque, yet delicate lyrical tendencies, this novel gives delusional recordings of an island distant and beyond memory. Here we hear the tourbadour's chant nearing with incredulous apathy, both the harmony of a siren song and the discordant twang of a swan song lingering beyond the sheet-music read. It's as if a protracted melancholia overtook a whole culture and a poetic instinct becomes embalmed in its people. Sicilians have a heritage of millions of years which resonates throughout, and apologizing for my not being a Sicilian, I would suggest a visit to Siracusa, Palermo, Catania, or even off the coast to Taranto (Calabria) to remind us that the Odyssey's tales mostly take place in and around this island. Di Lampedusa is a classic man of letters, with an Odyssyan propensity for exploring the whims of human nature and exposing the forces that cross the devide that stands between loyalty and desire. I have found such a high quality of "delightful disturbance" only in a handful of artists - Primaraly in De Chirico's paintings, which parallels astoundingly well alongside any reading of "Il Gattopardo". In literature one may well liken Di Lampedusa to the late Thomas Mann (esp. "The Magic Mountain"). In "The Leopard" a uniique stunning clarity pervades. Stunning for the acceptance of its fading way of life consacrating a culture in decadence; while the clarity of classical beauty is flawlessly contained. It is impossibly beautiful and sublime. Here Di Lampedusa conspires to invite us on a voyage with sails withdrawn, impressively seized within a standstill. Chimed from afar floats a decadent sweltering heat, while basking underneath is found the novel's storyline. Please plug your ears, or have someone tie you to something or other, else would that you were to tune in you'd never leave: In blissfull obliviousness you'd perish along this shoreline! Hereby the island's lure is a felicitous narrative that speaks fables of yesterday in daring, lingering overtones, consonant with the cunning splendid mirage of sex appeal.... And an applause to Guido Waldman, who deserves unrestrained praise for his labours as they shall now translate into our delights, adding considerably to the overall excellence of Archibald Colquhoun's translation, the novel has reached the shores of its definitive version.
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56 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Classic, December 15, 2007
By 
ktrmes "ktrmes" (New York, New York USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Leopard: A Novel (Paperback)
That the Leopard is a great work of literature -- or as E. Said terms it, a great "late work" -- is now undisputed. This status is made all the more remarkable and poignant by the Leopard being Lampedusa's first novel and only being published posthumously.
I have read three versions of the Leopard: the hardcover (Everyman's Library), a earlier paperback version (Pantheon, Jul 23, 1991) and this recent paperback release (November 6, 2007). All these versions include translations by Archibald Colquhoun, but the translation presented in the hardcover differs from the paper versions'. Because of the use of such British spellings "colour" in the hardcover, that translation may be from a British market version.
In fact, however, the differences in the translations involve more than such simple substitutions. In the critical last paragraph for example, the differences are arguably substantive: "As the carcass was dragged off, the glass eyes stared at her with the humble reproach of things that are discarded in hope of final riddance..." (Everyman's Library) versus "As the carcass was dragged off, the glass eyes stared at her with the humble reproach of things that are thrown away, that are being annulled" (paperbacks.) A central concern of this last chapter is the notion of that which was once treated as sacred, "relics," having their status invalidated, the objects being shown not to be what they were once held to be -- examples include the sisters' religious artifacts being disqualified as relics by Church representatives and the remains of the faithful Bendico being shown not to stand for what the Prince's daughter, Concetta had long believed. Thus the word "annulled" including its flavor of an acknowledgment that an apparent status was actually never valid, never really was, would seem more evocative. Examples of differences in the translations such as this arise in a number of important parts of the story.
Finally, this latest paper version offers a valuable bonus, a set of excerpts from Lampdusa's correspondence relating to the Leopard which contain a set of interesting revelations including, for example, Lampedusa's identification of the importance of the Prince's dog Bendico in the story.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Immaculately Written and Ceaselessly Amazing, July 18, 2006
This review is from: The Leopard (Paperback)
Honestly, I don't usually fall for books like "The Leopard"; it's not the most innovative work out there nor does it make attempts towards such a goal; in fact, at first it appears to be crushingly ordinary and even conservative. But, don't let appearances fool you, for "The Leopard" is that special book that is more than it at first appears. Lampedusa is a graceful, exact and imaginative writer who, more than anyone I've read since I first tackled Flaubert himself, almost makes me a believer in "le mot juste." Most impressive is the form of the work, where details are worked to a full, rich detail for a specific time and place, and then, suddenly, with the next chapter, all the action is shifted months, years and miles away from the last. If anyone, Lampedusa's approach to time reminded me of Virginia Woolf's treatment of the same in "To the Lighthouse." Indeed, it seems to me that, with its flash-backs and leaps in time and space, "The Leopard" is a modernist-damaged attempt at writing the prototypical 19th Century novel.

The best success of "The Leopard," however, and what truly sets it apart as a notable novel of the 20th Century, is that it actually succeeds at what all historical fiction attempts (and where most of it falls flat): it almost effortlessly evokes the general sense of a historical era while concentrating on the minutiae. I feel, somehow, that even the most well crafted historical study will never give me as true and complete feeling for the Risorgimento and its impact on the nobility as this tale of Don Fabrizio and his family has. And for that reason alone, "The Leopard" stands a true masterpiece of literature.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Perfectly Written Novel, March 6, 1999
This review is from: The Leopard (Paperback)
I think it's safe to say, that for anyone who has read this book, the general concensus would be that every word of this riverting novel is 'perfectly placed.' There are very few books, Marquez's 'Love in the Time of Cholera' being one of recent memory, that can rank alongside this novel of private despair as the 'Leopard' watches helplessly, yet with grace, as his entire lineage crumbles and transforms before his very eyes.
Without disclosing any more of the content, this is a novel we should all read, not only for its extremely accurate historical value of a decaying Sicily, but in appreciation of the author's complete devotion to his craft. It is unfortunate, as is often the case with those we consider 'great' artists, that di Lampedusa did not live to realise the success his novel would achieve.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revolution and resignation, April 25, 2001
By 
Guillaume (Connecticut, USA) - See all my reviews
The Leopard is a story of aristocratic decline in an age of revolution and democracy. It is set in Sicily at the time of the Risorgimento in the mid-nineteenth-century that put the Italian states on the path to unification. Don Fabrizio is a Sicilian aristocrat of German extraction. While Sicily is conquered by the nationalist Redshirts under Garibaldi, he spends his time indulging his interest in astronomy and his passion for women. He tends to his estate, Donnafugata, and holds discussions with his tolerant yet gently disapproving priest. In need of money, his nephew marries the daughter of the village mayor, who also happens to be the local mafia chieftan. Don Fabrizio's world is coming to a close. It is the end of aristocracy and the triumph of the grubby merchants, the middle classes, and the democrats -- the triumph, in short, of the vulgar money-making classes and all they represent.
Don Fabrizio's attitude to what is happening around him is one of resignation. On a political and social level, this is disappointing. I wish he would spend less time looking through his telescope and more time organising a resistance. After all, isn't the best antidote to revolution - be it political, religious, social, or sexual - not apathy or aloofness, but counter-revolution? Don Fabrizio's political impotence in the face of savagery is symptomatic of the deeper maladies that later came to infect the ruling class of the West in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Piety gave way to decadence, virility to effeminacy, loyalty to treason; the biggest tragedy by far was the wholesale loss of confidence. But accepting fate is part of the aristocratic ethos to which a nobleman such as Don Fabrizio would adhere, so perhaps I should not be too hard on him.
Like all classic stories, The Leopard transcends its historical setting. In this case Lampedusa wrote the story during WWII while Sicily was overrun by Allied troops. Although partly based on the author's own family history, it can also be seen as his reaction to the occupiers' deliberate destruction of Sicily's ancient palaces and estates, not to mention their corrupting notions of liberty and democracy. The story echoes even more closely our present day situation. As the American republic metamorphoses into a tyrannical global empire, and as the revolutionary processes of globalization and Americanization threaten to obliterate traditional Western civilization, the only things we are left with -- like Don Fabrizio -- are memories of a better, nobler age. The Leopard reminds us that change too often equals decline, especially in the modern era.
Similarly beguiling is Lampedusa's short story, The Professor and the Siren. In some ways it is an even more haunting tale than The Leopard. It has certainly stuck in my mind all these years since I first read it. The latter book, though, remains an unadulterated classic and is highly recommended.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Rough Gem in the Annals of Historical Fiction, September 21, 2005
By 
This review is from: The Leopard (Paperback)
This is the allegorical tale of a Sicilian prince, and his extended family, during the overthrow of the nobility, land reform, and unification of the Italian states in the 1860s. The prince and his family represent the old way, and the next generation represents the new. The author is himself a descendant of Sicilian princes, and, as you might expect, he depicts his protagonist, Don Fabrizio, as a benevolent lord and accomplished scholar. This book was very popular when it came out in 1960, and deserves its durability. The prospective reader should be aware of a few factors. First, there is a disturbing clash of chronology. The author attempts a Michener-like intergenerational view, yet its flash-backs and flash-forwards result in a distortion of timeline. In the midst of one narrative, the author makes an unexplained and out of context reference to a future bomb manufactured in Pittsburgh. If this hadn't been published posthumously, an editor would have remedied these passages. Then there is the language. We are often aware that we are reading a translation. It is not Giuseppe di Lampedusa's language, but that of Archibald Colquhoun. (Just say those two names aloud and you will hear the difference between Italian and English). Finally, the book is entertaining. "'There is endless good in him,and it is not only I who say so. Isn't that true Father Pirrone?' The excellent Jesuit found himself suddenly facing an unpleasant dilemma. He had been Tancredi's confessor,and he knew quite a number of his little failings: none very serious, of course, but such as to detract quite a good deal from the endless goodness of which the Prince had spoken; and all such, he almost felt like saying, as to guarantee an unwavering marital infidelity. This, of course, could not actually be said both for sacramental reasons and from worldly experience."
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Forgotten Classic??, January 7, 2003
By 
Susan E. Neill (Alexandria, VA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Leopard (Paperback)
This is a wonderful historical novel/character study/satire of political "progress" that pays homage to Stendhal. Di Lampedusa's Don Fabrizio (based on the author's own great grandfather), Prince of Salina of Sicily, is an unforgettable character - full of himself and his pampered, aristocratic life, wiley and politically astute, lusty, yet loving, compassionate and melancholicly romantic. The history of the Italian Risorgimento is fascinating. It's a shame that this wonderful writer wrote so little before he died.
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The Leopard. Translated from the Italian by Archibald Colquhoun.
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