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The Leopard Paperback – July 23, 1991

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Paperback, July 23, 1991
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Editorial Reviews Review

In Sicily in 1860, as Italian unification grows inevitable, the smallest of gestures seems dense with meaning and melancholy, sensual agitation and disquiet: "Some huge irrational disaster is in the making." All around him, the prince, Don Fabrizio, witnesses the ruin of the class and inheritance that already disgust him. His favorite nephew, Tancredi, proffers the paradox, "If we want things to stay as they are, they will have to change," but Don Fabrizio would rather take refuge in skepticism or astronomy, "the sublime routine of the skies."

Giuseppe di Lampedusa, also an astronomer and a Sicilian prince, was 58 when he started to write The Leopard, though he had had it in his mind for 25 years. E. M. Forster called his work "one of the great lonely books." What renders it so beautiful and so discomfiting is its creator's grasp of human frailty and, equally, 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." The author died at the age of 60, soon after finishing The Leopard, though he did live long enough to see it rejected as unpublishable.


...Lampedusa's deftness with words is so fine that, although nothing much appears to happen in the book ... to many readers The Leopard is the greatest Italian novel this century, perhaps the greatest ever, and uniquely relevant to modern Italy. -- The Economist

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (July 23, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679731210
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679731214
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (184 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,209,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

269 of 280 people found the following review helpful By Richard R. Horton on September 5, 2000
Format: 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.
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65 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on April 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
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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80 of 92 people found the following review helpful By Bhupinder Singh on September 11, 2005
Format: 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.
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81 of 94 people found the following review helpful By Luca Graziuso and Marina Ross on August 9, 2008
Format: 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.
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