The Leopard

Giuseppe di Lampedusa

translated from the Italian
Vintage 2007 [1958]
A book review by Danny Yee © 2010
Set in Sicily starting in 1860, The Leopard tells the story of Don Fabrizio, Prince of Salina, and his and his family's adaptations to the changes of the Italian Risorgimento.

While in many ways a traditional patriarch, Don Fabrizio is more intellectual than his peers, with a serious interest in astronomy and mathematics. When his nephew Tancredi throws in his lot with Garibaldi's Redshirts, he is flexible enough to see the advantages of that, and even to endorse Tancredi's marriage to the daughter of an uncouth but up-and-coming member of the new liberal bourgeoisie.

Di Lampedusa's shrewd characterisations extend from Don Fabrizio to his wife and daughters, his household, and the broader community; the social ties of the old order and their psychological underpinnings are brought to life. There are also some vivid descriptions of landscapes and houses. The Leopard is an elegiac account of a way of life and its passing: its final chapters describe Don Fabrizio's death in 1883 and the end of the special relationship between his family and the Catholic Church in 1910.

Possibly the best known Italian novel of all time, The Leopard stands out for its sympathetic portrayal of human failings and of the feudal aristocracy of Sicily.

April 2010

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%T The Leopard
%A di Lampedusa, Giuseppe
%M Italian
%I Vintage
%D 2007 [1958]
%G ISBN 0099512157