The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa

13 Feb

The Bearwood Bookworms decided that we should read ‘The Leopard’ by Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa and Archibald Colquhoun (ISBN-10: 0099512157)
So, after making enquiries at the local library, and several phonecalls, the request was unsuccesful. I resorted to Amazon for my copy, and thought that £2.05 was a bargain for a difficult to find book.
I looked at the front cover, and was impressed by the design and layout. The smell, of the pages as I flicked through, was musty but acceptable. I read the first page and looked forward to a fictious piece of history…

Set in the Spring of 1860, the Prince of Salina, Fabrizio, rules over thousands of acres and hundreds of people, including his own family. Then Garibaldi arrives, and the socio-political climate changes…

Although the story was very well written, a rich tapestry of detail, describing palaces, chambers, the appearances of characters and episodic events combined with the inner thoughts, anxieties and feelings of the main protagnist, I found the whole book laborious and irritating. Many critics have lauded it, calling it a “modern masterpiece” and a “classic tale” but I felt it was too concerned with the minutae of detail and not enough substantial content to allow the reader to be brought in and ‘feel’ or understand the core of the tale. The characters flit in and out and the plot does not really advance forward. It seems like the Prince is recollecting life events and how he felt at the time, but his passions and power over the local population holds him in high esteem although he himself feels indifferent. Somewhat symbolic and semi-autobiographical, it comes across as a pleasant romp through a turbulent political time of upheaval.

The only highlight or real sub-plot is the “love affair” between his nephew, Tancredi, and Angelica, the daughter of another rich landowner. It transpires that the landowner is really the descendant of a peasant, but the dynamics of that storyline is not explored. There is also an element of jealousy. scorn and bitterness when Fabrizios’ own daughter, Concetta, mistakenly believes that Tancredi is to ask for her hand in marriage.

The chapters are snapshots or presented as written tableaux of life at the time, but it ends at the early part of the 20th century when we are left with the three daughters of the famed Prince, who are now elderly Spinsters and living in a home filled with religious relics, some genuine, some fake.

I can’t imagine how ‘The Leopard’ has earned it’s reputation as a “classic” as it is a relatively unknown novel and was the only book Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa had published before he died.

The Learned Kat

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