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The Leopard Paperback – July 23, 1991
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Interesting history and culture of Sicily in 1860, wonderful, languid style of delivery and a main character in The Prince who I came to appreciate and really admire over the course of the novel.
It's a novel that may not appeal to everyone, it did require a bit of patience but it certainly appealed to me.
The book tells the tale of revolution and evolution in a conservative and "underdeveloped" society in Sicily. The protagonist, Prince Salina, is watching and, to some degree, participating in the unification of Italy and the incorporation of his Sicily in the greater kingdom in the 1860s. The Prince is very much a modern man (a noted astronomer in his spare time) and yet very much a member of his class and loyal to the traditions of his island. The unification of Italy very much puts those traditions to test and forces his family to bend as they stay true to what they believe.
Although not a book abut politics by any means, I was struck by how well this book outlines the importance of social capital and trust. Without a belief in modernity (a desire to change), development is not likely to happen. Or it is not likely to happen simply by bringing in modern inputs. In a place that has often been invaded and exploited by outsiders (like Sicily), it can be hard for outsiders to be trusted regardless of their intentions. Although this should be obvious, it is lesson that has to be learned over and over again.
The language is beautiful, the way of life in that time (Palma) and place (Santa Margherita) are rarely written about. As in "The Odyssey," there is a dog that in the author's words is "practically the key to the novel."
The Rosary is a prayer at once ornate and simple. Simple because it is assembled from just a few formulaic prayers: the Pater Noster, the Ave Maria, framed by the Credo and the Salve Regina. Ornate because of the pattern in which the prayers are arranged and the mysteries on which the recitor meditates as part of saying the complete Rosary. Like much about the Roman Catholic church, the Rosary is flamboyant, formal, and majestic but as most often it is said in a private or family setting, it is also understated, meditative, and intimate.
This prayer wonderfully illustrates Don Fabrizio's character. He is flamboyant, formal, traditional, rich and yet thoughtful, respectful, considerate, kind, and intellectual.
Don Fabrizio is an expansive man, a benevolent Sicilian aristocrat towering above the peasants living on his domains but without a threat and ultimately overjoyed that his beloved nephew Tancredi is to marry Angelica, a beautiful girl born of peasant stock. Despite his position above his tenants, whose irregular rents he accepts in chickens and other kind, the Leopard knows his place and supports the monarchy, behaving as humbly towards the King of Italy as the village mayor does towards him. There is structure.
Living in the last days of the old regime as Italy finally is becoming a single nation, Don Fabrizio refuses a senatorial position; he prefers instead to devote himself to astronomy. He medidates while history runs its course, letting the younger generation run the world. His time has passed.
Vincent Poirier, Dublin