The Leopard

Review of Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa's novel by Ruchira Paul in Accidental Blogger:

08dilampedusa The Leopard, written by Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa was published a year after the author’s death in 1957. Based on the life of his great-grandfather, the benevolent Sicilian tyrant Don Fabrizio, the Prince of Salina, Lampedusa’s account is meticulous in attention, generous in admiration and tinged with half hearted regret for the loss of a certain way of life. I say half-hearted because it is not entirely clear whether the author, the penurious descendant of a once prosperous and proud feudal family, gently mocks his ancestor’s grandiose ways while harboring considerable affection for the man himself.

The title character, Don Fabrizio aka The Leopard (a nickname derived from the family’s coat of arms) is a fascinating character. Large and proud, possessing big appetites and enormous physical strength, the Prince was elegant, generous, occasionally unthinkingly cruel and often unexpectedly melancholy. He supported the brood of offspring he had spawned with his long suffering wife as well as a large retinue of servants and dependants. But he was not above casting a jaundiced eye on their minor shortcomings. His wife's hysterical sorrow exasperated him; his sons disappointed him; his daughters' emotional upheavals irritated him. Outwardly reverential toward the ever present Jesuit clergy (the Jesuit intially opposed the Italian revolution for unification that is the backdrop of the novel) he rarely missed an opportunity to mock the resident priest Father Pirrone for his piety and poor personal hygiene. In fact the only character in the novel toward whom The Prince was unfailingly affectionate and forgiving was his charming and ambitious nephew Tancredi Falconeri, a penniless aristocratic young man who fought on the side of Garibaldi’s Red Shirts who brought the battle for the Risorgimento to the Sicilian shores in 1860.

The novel, after its posthumous publication, became an instant sensation. It was embraced and assailed by both the left and the right of the Italian political divide. Many conservatives felt that Lampedusa had betrayed his own noble heritage by mocking the upper class while some on the left interpreted his views as a repudiation of the Italian unification.

More here.