Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Leopard
The Leopard 

"Love. Of course, love. Flames for a year, ashes for thirty." 

The Leopard, 1958, (filmed in 1963), is sometimes compared to Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind. It drew on the author's family history and described the reactions of a noble family to the social and political landscape following Sicily's appropriation by Garibaldi in 1860. Lampedusa published nothing during his lifetime except for three articles that appeared in an obscure Genoese periodical in the 1920s.

The Prince was depressed: "All this shouldn't last; but it will, always; the human 'always,' of course, a century, two centuries... and after that it will be different but worse. We were the Leopards, the Lions; those who'll take our place will be little jackals, hyenas; and the whole lot of us Leopards, jackals, and sheep, we'll all go on thinking ourselves the salt of the earth." (from The Leopard)

This is one of the best historical novels that I have ever read (and reread). It reads like an epic and the family story is told in beautiful prose. Lampedusa never strikes a wrong note and creates, in the patriarch of the family, Don Fabrizio the Sicilian prince, one of the great tragic figures in literature. The novel successfully depicts the end of his world and the beginning of modern Italy. Definitely must be read by anyone interested in historical literary fiction.

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