The Leopard

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The Leopard
The Leopard Signet 1960s.jpg
Signet paperback edition
Author Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
Original title Il Gattopardo
Country Italy
Language Italian
Genre Novel
Publisher Casa editrice Feltrinelli
Publication date
1958
Media type Print (Hardcover, Paperback)
Pages 330 pp
ISBN ISBN 0-679-73121-0 (Pantheon edition)
OCLC 312310

The Leopard (Italian: Il Gattopardo) is a novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa that chronicles the changes in Sicilian life and society during the Risorgimento. Published posthumously in 1958 by Feltrinelli, after two rejections by the leading Italian publishing houses Mondadori and Einaudi, it became the top-selling novel in Italian history and is considered one of the most important novels in modern Italian literature. In 2012, The Observer named it as one of "The 10 best historical novels".[1]

The novel was also made into an award-winning 1963 film of the same name, directed by Luchino Visconti and starring Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon.

The author[edit]

Tomasi was the last in a line of minor princes in Sicily, and he had long contemplated writing a historical novel based on his great-grandfather, Don Giulio Fabrizio Tomasi, another Prince of Lampedusa. After the Lampedusa palace was bombed and pillaged by Allied forces in World War II, Tomasi sank into a lengthy depression, and began to write Il Gattopardo as a way to combat it.

The title[edit]

Despite being universally known in English as The Leopard, the original title Il Gattopardo actually refers to a serval. Although uncommon north of the Sahara Desert, one of the serval's few North African ranges is quite near Lampedusa. This animal is in the coat of arms of Tomasi's family.[2]

Themes and interpretation[edit]

The novel is the story of Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina,[3] a 19th-century Sicilian nobleman caught in the midst of civil war and revolution. As a result of political upheaval, the prince's position in the island's class system is eroded by newly moneyed peasants and "shabby minor gentry." As the novel progresses, the Prince is forced to choose between upholding the continuity of upper class values, and breaking tradition to secure continuity of his (nephew's) family's influence ("everything needs to change, so everything can stay the same"). A central theme of the story is the struggle between mortality and decay (death, fading of beauty, fading of memories, change of political system, false relics etc.), and abstraction and eternity (the prince's love for the stars and calculations, continuity and resilience to change of the Sicilian people). In a letter to a friend, the author notes: "Be careful: the dog Bendicò, is a very important character and is almost the key to the novel". This heraldic emblem is the key to destruction, in the sense that ruin comes even to the dog.

Plot summary[edit]

Most of the novel is set during the time of the Risorgimento, specifically during the period when Giuseppe Garibaldi, the hero of Italian unification, swept through Sicily with his forces, known as The Thousand. The plot focuses upon the aristocratic Salina family, which is headed by the stoic Prince Fabrizio, a consummate womanizer who foresees the upcoming downfall of his family and the nobility in Italy as a whole but is unable to act upon this. As the novel opens in May 1860, Garibaldi's Redshirts have landed on the Sicilian coast and are pressing inland to overthrow the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

"Introduction to the Prince," May 1860.[edit]

This chapter[4] begins with a detailed description of the exquisitely decorated drawing room where the Salina family recites their daily rosary. After the last mysteries are completed, the Prince wanders out into the garden, where the sickly, over-ripe smells of lush foliage threaten to overwhelm him with memories—specifically, of a dead Neapolitan soldier, who, in his last moments, had clawed his way into the lemon grove and died there. He recalls the specific, gut-spilled details of the soldier's body, recollections that lead him to a brief contemplation of his own death.[5] Perturbed by these thoughts, the Prince takes refuge in watching his dog, Bendicò, joyfully dig up the garden, and in thoughts about the behavior of his wayward nephew, Prince Tancredi Falconieri.

At dinner, the Prince's family notice that he is perturbed, and remain tense and silent as he serves them dinner. Ultimately, he angrily announces that he will drive his coach into Palermo. The adults at the table, including the Princess and the family's Jesuit chaplain, instantly know that the only reason he's leaving is to visit a brothel. As the Prince is driven in his carriage into the city, he passes Tancredi's villa, worrying again that Tancredi's fallen in with bad company [6]—specifically, with the rebels fighting to overthrow the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The military guardsmen, posted to prevent the entrance of Garibaldi's Redshirts, allow the Prince to freely pass into the city. As the Prince makes his way to the brothel, his thoughts vacillate between anticipation and guilt, between disgust with his wife (who crosses herself whenever they make love) and admiration of her prudery. Two hours later, his thoughts run a similar course, with the addition of a kind of disgusted satisfaction with the prostitute and a satisfied disgust with his own body. He is driven back to the villa, again passes the bonfires and again worries about Tancredi. When he arrives back home, he finds the Princess in bed, thinks affectionately of her, climbs into bed with her, and finds he can't sleep. "Towards dawn, however, the Princess had occasion to make the Sign of the Cross."

The following morning, the Prince's shaving is interrupted by the arrival of Tancredi, who jokes with him about his visit to the city—Tancredi was at the guard post and saw him arrive. Tancredi also reveals that his position in the Italian nationalist movement has risen. He adds that he will soon be joining Garibaldi in the mountains. The Prince suddenly imagines his beloved nephew dead in the garden with his guts trailing out like the Crown soldier, and tries to dissuade him from departing. Tancredi, however, insists that he is fighting for a very good reason. If the nobility refuses to accept the Kingdom of Italy, "They will foist a republic on us. If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change." Later, as the Prince gets dressed, he realizes the practicality of Tancredi's words. As he ponders the coming upheavals, he realizes that his nephew is more aristocratically like-minded than he thought.

After breakfast, the Prince, accompanied by the playful Bendicò, goes into his office, which is lined with century-old paintings of the Salina family's estates.[7] As he sits at his cluttered desk, the Prince recalls how much he dislikes both the room and the work it represents. This dislike intensifies during visits from his accountant and one of his tenants, both of whom are allied with the Redshirts. Both of them assure the Prince that the unification of Italy will be peaceful and will benefit everyone, including the nobility. The Prince allows himself to be reassured, certain that the class system will remain unchanged no matter what.

The Prince's visit to the Salina chaplain, Father Pirrone, atop a tower where the men practice their joint hobby of astronomy, reinforces this belief. Pirrone insists that the coming Revolution will eventually result in the destruction of both the Roman Catholic Church and the nobility. The wealth and estates of both will be distributed to the Redshirt leaders. The Prince, however, assures him that the transformations of time are inevitable, and while the Church and aristocracy are desperate to hold on to their status, to attempt to do so would be foolish. Both angry and both resentful, the Prince and Father Pirrone take refuge in conversation on the safe topic of the stars, with "the bluster of the one and the blood on the other merg[ing] into tranquil harmony. The real problem is how to go on living this life of the spirit in its most sublimated moments, those moments that are most like death."

At lunch, the Prince becomes aware that his family is worried about Tancredi's safety. As a result, the Prince makes an effort to appear simultaneously concerned and reassuring. When dessert is brought out, he is surprised and pleased to see it's his favorite - a large, castle-shaped jelly. As dessert commences, the castle is essentially demolished before Don Paolo, the Prince's son and heir, gets a chance to have any. After lunch the Prince returns to the office, where he finds that two of his tenants have come with his share of their product—a particular cheese, which the Prince hates, slaughtered lambs, whose spilled guts remind the Prince of the Crown soldier, and a cluster of hysterical chickens. He gives orders for everything to be disposed of, for the windows to be opened to let out the smell, and for the accountant Ferrera to write out receipts.

That evening, the Prince receives a letter urging him to flee to safety from the revolution. In response, he simply laughs. Later, as the Salinas gather to say their rosary, the Prince reads in a newspaper of the approach of Garibaldi and his men. The Prince is disturbed, but reassures himself that Garibaldi will be reined in by his Piedmontese masters.

"Donnafugata," August 1860[edit]

After a long journey by coach,[8] the Prince, his faithful dog Bendicò, and the squabbling Salinas arrive after a long hot drive at their country farm on the way to their estate at Donnafugata. As lunch is prepared with water from the farm's well,[9] narration describes the harsh song of cicadas as "a death rattle from parched Sicily at the end of August vainly awaiting rain."

As the family travels on to Donnafugata, the Prince reflects on Garibaldi's recent conquest of the island. The Expedition of the Thousand landed at Marsala, where Tancredi and other native Sicilians joined them. Garibaldi's march was finally completed with the Siege of Gaeta, where the final Bourbons were expelled and Garibaldi announced his dictatorship in the name of Victor Emmanuel II of the Kingdom of Sardinia. Upon his arrival, the citizens of Palermo rejoiced and, later, local leaders of the movement had called at the Salina palace. Although they treated the Prince with great respect, one of them insisted on flirting with Concetta. Narration also describes how the Prince has also been having nightmares, but how, with the rising of the sun, the dreams and the fears triggered by them always fade.

As his entourage draws nearer to Donnafugata, the Prince anticipates his usual warm welcome. The welcome is indeed warm and both the officials of the town and the common people greet the Salinas as gladly as always. Their numbers include the new mayor, Don Calogero Sedàra and the church organist, Don Ciccio. Narration describes the Prince's graciousness, the Princess' fatigue, and the somewhat flirtatious manner in which Tancredi brushes flies away from Concetta's face.

After Mass (actually just Te Deum), the Princess invites the officials to the traditional first night dinner and Don Calogero requests permission to bring his daughter Angelica instead of his wife. As the Prince gives his consent, the Prince also invites the villagers to visit later in the evening. "And the Prince, who had found Donnafugata unchanged, was found very much changed himself; for never before would he have issued so cordial an invitation: and from that moment, invisibly, began the decline of his prestige."

As the Prince inspects his property and possessions, the manager lists everything that's been done to keep the estate in order, and then passes on some local news. Don Calogero, who was active in Garibaldi's invasion, has become a wealthy landowner and businessman. To the dismay of the Prince, Don Calogero is now almost as wealthy as the Salinas. The manager adds that Angelica, Don Calogero's daughter, has become quite full of herself as a result. As a result, the Prince wonders what dinner will be like with the two of them there. He realizes that he is somewhat resentful of Calogero's status, but narration comments "deep down he had foreseen such things; they were the price to be paid." He then goes into the house for a nap and a bath before dinner.

However, the Prince's bathing is suddenly interrupted by the arrival of Father Pirrone. Although he is quite embarrassed at seeing the Prince naked, the Jesuit nevertheless fulfills his charge. Concetta has asked Father Pirrone to tell her father that she is in love with Tancredi and that she believes her feelings to be returned. What is more, Concetta believes that her cousin is about to propose and that she desires her father's instruction on what she is to say in response. The Prince ponders his fondness for Concetta, which is based in her apparent submissiveness and placidity. However, he has also noticed the occasional flash of steel in her eyes when she doesn't get what she wants. Narration also describes his thoughts of Tancredi, whose charm and ambition have left him destined for great things. However, Tancredi's ambitions may require more money than Concetta will bring as her dowry. Keeping his thoughts to himself, the Prince decrees that Father Pirrone is to tell Concetta that the Prince will discuss it with her later. However, this will only be when he's certain that "it's not all just the fancy of a romantic girl."

After a nap, the Prince goes out into the garden, where his contemplations of an erotic statue are interrupted by Tancredi's teasing about sex, comments which also apply to a small crop of beautifully ripe peaches in a nearby grove. The Prince uneasily changes the subject, and he and Tancredi gossip their way back to the house, where they join the rest of the family and the arriving dinner guests.

Soon after, Don Calogero arrives, and the Prince is relieved to see that he's dressed quite tastelessly. His relief ends abruptly when Angelica arrives - he finds her attractive enough to feel the stir of lust. Tancredi, unusually for a young man so fond of female beauty, merely returns to his conversation, but Pirrone, looking through his Bible, spends the rest of the evening reading the stories of Delilah, Judith and Esther, all women who manipulated their men through sensuality.

Narration of this section begins with a detailed description of the dinner's first course. As the guests each enjoy their food, narration comments that they did so "because sensuality was circulating in the room..." This sensuality, narration adds, emanates from Angelica, who flirts openly with Tancredi—who, in his turn, finds himself attracted to both Angelica's beauty and her money. For her part, Concetta is enraged.[10] At the conclusion of dinner, Tancredi flirtatiously tells the enraptured Angelica stories from his battles with the Redshirts, including a raucous story about an incursion into a convent in the company of a man named Tassoni. Scandalized, Concetta berates her cousin for being ill-mannered and turns her back on him.

The following day, the Prince and his family uphold a centuries-old family tradition and visit a convent founded by a female ancestor. Narration details the reasons why the Prince is one of only two men allowed to enter the convent. While everyone is waiting for admission, Tancredi suddenly announces his wish to go into the convent as well, saying that a particular interpretation of the rules would allow it. Before the Prince can respond, Concetta makes cutting comments about how Tancredi has already been in a convent. Before Tancredi can respond, and before the Prince can absorb the meaning of Concetta's words, the nuns open the door. After his visit, the Prince is surprised to learn from Father Pirrone that Tancredi has left after remembering an urgent letter he had to send.

After returning from the convent, the Prince looks out his window at Donnafugata's town square and spies Tancredi, dressed in his, "seduction color," of Prussian blue. He is carrying a box of peaches from the grove and is seen to knock on the door of the Sedàras household.

"The Troubles of Don Fabrizio." October 1860[edit]

This chapter[11] begins with a lyrically written introduction to the silent, still, dim, early morning world at Donnafugata in which the Prince likes to walk with Bendicò. Narration then describes how Tancredi writes every week, but never to Concetta and always with comments that he would like the Prince to pass on to Angelica, who, in turn, visits every day, pretending to come to see the girls but in reality to learn news of Tancredi. All the while, the Prince is becoming more and more uneasy with the unaccustomed tact he has to employ with the rest of the family and with the world at large since the revolution. Narration likens his unease to that of a modern man accustomed to leisurely trips in a small airplane who suddenly finds him on a fast trip in a jet.

One particular day a letter arrives from Tancredi in which he asks the Prince to ask Angelica's father for her hand in marriage. He uses several arguments to convince the Prince to do so, among them being she will bring money into the family and guarantee that the family will continue to have status in the new kingdom of Italy. The Prince finds himself agreeing with many of Tancredi's points, and takes a little second-hand sensual pleasure in knowing that he'll soon be able to enjoy seeing Angelica more often. The next morning, the Prince, in the company of his usual morning companions, Don Ciccio (the organist) and Bendicò, takes his gun with him on his walk and shoots a rabbit. "The animal had died tortured by anxious hopes of salvation, imagining it could still escape when it was already caught, just like so many human beings."

Later, the Prince and Ciccio eat their picnic lunch and settle down for a nap. Meanwhile, Garibaldi and his Redshirts are fighting hard at the Siege of Gaeta, where they feel the same breeze ruffling their hair as well. Instead of sleeping, however, the Prince finds himself contemplating the recent Plebiscite, a vote taken on the question of whether Sicily should politically join with the new Italian Kingdom. The Prince remembers how windy and dusty it was on the day of the vote, and how he couldn't decide which way to mark his ballot. Eventually he voted "yes," and then recalls the celebrations which greeted the result — a unanimous vote in favor.

Back in the present, the Prince contemplates what he believes to be the historical significance of the vote and also its deeper meaning. This leads him to ask Ciccio how he voted in the Plebiscite. At first reluctant, Don Ciccio finally admits that, as the son of a Bourbon royal game keeper, he could not bring himself to vote in favor of the revolution. Many others in Donnafugata voted the same way, but Don Calogero rigged the election and announced the results as unanimously in favor of the House of Savoy.

The Prince ponders that the new regime, by rigging elections throughout the island, has strangled whatever goodwill they once possessed in Sicily. He finally asks Don Ciccio what the people of Donnafugata really think of Don Calogero. Don Ciccio speaks at angry length of how many people despise Don Calogero in spite of, or perhaps because of, his embodiment of a harsh reality - that "every coin spent in the world must end in someone's pocket." Don Calogero, a peasant moneylender, eloped with Angelica's mother, who was the daughter of a penniless Salina tenant. Don Calogero's father-in-law vowed revenge, but his corpse was later found, shot twelve times in the back.

Although scandalized by Don Ciccio's stories, the Prince at last asks the question that's really on his mind—what is Angelica truly like? Ciccio speaks rapturously of her beauty, poise, and sophistication, and then speaks about how her parents' vulgarity seems to have not affected her. The Prince bristles, and informs Don Ciccio that from now on, because Angelica and Tancredi are to be married, the Serdàras must be spoken about with appropriate respect. Ciccio, who has believed that Tancredi was attempting to seduce Angelica in order to embarrass her father, who is horrified. He bursts out that for Tancredi and Angelica to marry will cause the end of the good qualities of the Salina and Falconieri families. The Prince thinks to himself, however, that the marriage will not be the end, but the beginning. As the Prince and Don Ciccio return to Donnafugata, it impossible to tell which of them is Don Quixote and which is Sancho Panza.

The Prince takes his time dressing for his meeting with Don Calogero, and when he finally goes downstairs, he has a vision of the two of them as animals. Their conversation is, for the most part, polite, with both men making occasional slips into tactlessness but both ultimately making the truths of the situation quite apparent. For the Prince, that truth involves Tancredi's excellent lineage but extreme poverty, while for Calogero the truth involves his wealth, which is much greater than the Prince ever realized, and the fact that Don Calogero is in final negotiations to purchase the title of Baroness for his daughter. After agreement is reached that the marriage is to proceed, Don Calogero departs to consult with Angelica, who, he is convinced, will agree to the marriage. The Prince goes to bed, passing the room where his daughters are playing. Several of them notice him and smile, but Concetta "was embroidering and, not hearing her father's steps, did not even turn."

"Love at Donnafugata." November 1860.[edit]

Narration then describes how, as preparations for the wedding between Tancredi and Angelica progressed, the Prince and Calogero became more like each other - the Prince became more ruthless in his business dealings, while Calogero saw the value of good manners and better grooming. Calogero, narration suggests, began "that process of continual refining which in the course of three generations transforms innocent peasants into defenseless gentry."

Narration also describes, in a tone that is at times enraptured and at other times pointedly cynical, Angelica's first visit to the Prince and his family following her betrothal to Tancredi. Dressed beautifully, she makes her entrance with perfect timing, and immediately endears herself to the Prince by embracing him and calling him a nickname given to him by Tancredi. Only Bendicò, growling in a corner, seems unhappy to see her. Finally, narration also describes how Angelica, as she's listening, coolly considers the financial and sexual prosperity that awaits them, and comments that, within a few years of the marriage, Angelica will become one of the great political kingmakers of the Italian Kingdom.

A week or so later, the family's quiet evening is interrupted by the sudden and unexpected arrival of Tancredi, who has brought a friend with him (Count Carlo). After taking a few minutes to dry off and change, Tancredi and the Count come into the family drawing room, now in their full dress uniforms, which fascinate the Prince's daughters and puzzle the Prince, who says he thought they were still fighting for Garibaldi. Tancredi and the Count react with disgust, saying there was no way they could stay with such a rough outfit when positions with the new king's army were available. Tancredi then produces the ring he has purchased for Angelica with money sent to him by the Prince. A moment later, Angelica rushes in, having been informed by a note that Tancredi is back. The lovers embrace; sensuality fills the air, and narration describes in detail what Tancredi feels at that moment.

Narration then describes in complex, poetic detail how love and sensuality fill the subsequent days at Donnafugata. The Count dreamily, and ineffectually, pursues Concetta, while Concetta's younger sisters (Carolina and Caterina) dream romantically of Tancredi and the Count, and Tancredi and Angelica spend their time exploring the palace's many rooms, each of which contains some representation of a leopard, the family insignia. Narration describes how, on several occasions, Tancredi and Angelica are tempted to give in to their mutual sensual desire, but never do... and how this idyllic time of romantic, intimate gaming between them was a happy prelude to the miserable, unsuccessful marriage that followed.

One day during this idyllic time, a government representative (Chevalley di Monterzuolo) arrives and tells the Prince that because of his aristocratic background and social influence, the government wants him to sit as a chosen (as opposed to elected) member of the Senate, where he would both advise and monitor the government. At first, the Prince is quite silent, leading Chevalley to attempt to flatter him into accepting the offer (see "Quotes", p. 163) - an attempt that doesn't work. The Prince explains at increasingly intense, often poetic length, why he, like other Sicilians, has no interest in being involved in government. "In Sicily," he says, "it doesn't matter about doing things well or badly; the sin which we Sicilians never forgive is simply that of 'doing' at all." He goes on to describe how Sicily's ways of thinking and being and doing are those of an old tired society that doesn't want to change. "This violence of landscape, this cruelty of climate, this continual tension in everything ... all these things have formed our character, which is thus conditioned by events outside our control as well as by a terrifying insularity of mind." Chevalley makes one more attempt at persuasion, but the Prince tells him that Sicilians think they're gods and don't need to change and/or improve their status. "Their vanity," he says, "is stronger than their misery."

The following morning, the Prince accompanies Chevalley to the station. As they walk through the streets of early morning Donnafugata, both of them overwhelmed by the squalor and despair surrounding them, both men think the situation has got to change, but where Chevalley believes it will, the Prince is convinced it won't. As the chapter draws to a close, Chevalley wipes the grime off the carriage's window. "The landscape lurched to and fro, irredeemable."

"Father Pirrone Pays a Visit." February 1861.[edit]

Father Pirrone visits his home village, where he is welcomed with teary embraces and warm, friendly memories. Much in the village has changed since the arrival of the Garibaldini. The land, which was previously owned by a Benedictine monastery, has been seized and sold to a peasant moneylender. Many of the villagers complain to Father Pirrone about their new landlord. Although the monks permitted their tenants to gather herbs on their land for free, the new landowner demands payment for the privilege.

During a conversation with a childhood friend, Father Pirrone enters a lengthy speech explaining why the Prince and other aristocrats don't really have any reaction one way or the other to the events of the revolution. - They "live in a world of their own ... all they live by has been handled by others". He concludes by saying that the feelings and attitudes that give rise to class consciousness never truly die. His elderly mother comes in, jokes about how he's still talking even though his friend has fallen asleep, and helps him get his visitor home. As he prepares for bed, Pirrone thinks that God is the only being who could have devised a life with so many complications.

The next day, Pirrone finds his sister Sarina in tears in the kitchen, and gets her to admit that her daughter Angelina (whom Pirrone mentally compares to the beautiful Angelica and finds wanting) has been impregnated outside of wedlock. The father, she confesses furiously, is the girl's first cousin, Santino, the son of Pirrone and Sarina's paternal uncle. Father Pirrone ponders the long-standing family feud between Pirrone's father and his uncle, a feud which, Pirrone believes, will make coping with this particular situation particularly difficult. He believes, however, that God has brought him home to bring it to an end. After saying Mass, he goes to visit his uncle and manipulates both him and Santino into accepting what he proposes as the terms of marriage. He also arranges for them to come see Angelina and her family that evening.

Back home, Father Pirrone persuades Angelina's grudging father into agreeing to the terms of marriage by sacrificing his own inheritance. Santino and his father arrive; the marriage is contracted, and the young people are happy. Later, while travelling back to the Salina Palace, Father Pirrone is certain that Santino and his father planned Angelina's seduction so they could get their hands on property they believed was rightfully theirs, and also realizes that the nobility and the peasants are, at least on one level, far more similar than he once thought.

"A Ball." November 1862[edit]

The Prince, the Princess, Concetta and Carolina prepare to attend a ball, one of the most important of the busy Palermo social season. The Prince is both excited and concerned about the evening to come—excited because it will be the first time Angelica and her beauty are to be presented to the public. However, he remains concerned that Don Calogero will make a complete fool of both himself and the Salinas. When Angelica (looking beautiful) and Don Calogero (looking acceptable) arrive shortly after, Angelica, thanks to detailed training in etiquette given to her by Tancredi, makes a huge social success. The Prince, after being satisfied that Angelica has been accepted, wanders through the rooms of the Palazzo Ponteleone where the ball is being held, becoming increasingly gloomy at the callowness of the young men, the boredom in the older men, and the silliness of the girls. The Prince also contemplates the mythological frescoes on the ceiling. "They thought themselves eternal," narration writes,[clarification needed] "but a bomb manufactured in Pittsburgh, Penn[sylvania] was to prove the contrary in 1943." When the Prince notices Tancredi and Angelica dancing happily together, oblivious to the other's desperation, ambition, and greed. As he watches, the Prince comes to realize and accept, if only for a moment, that whatever happiness the lovers feel is to be celebrated, no matter what. Therefore, he slips into the library.

There the Prince contemplates a painting by Greuze entitled "Death of the Just Man," and considers his own death. His thoughts are interrupted by the arrival of Tancredi and Angelica, who are taking a break from the dancing. As they speak playfully of the painting and of death, and as the Prince smilingly realizes how truly young they are, Angelica asks him to dance with her. Flattered, the Prince agrees. They are a successful couple and dance well, with the Prince's memory flashing back to the days of his youth "when, in that very same ballroom he had danced with [the Princess] before he knew disappointment, boredom, and the rest." As the dance finishes, he realizes the other dancers have stopped and are watching them, his "leonine air" preventing the onlookers from bursting into applause. Angelica asks him to eat with her and Tancredi, and for a flattered moment almost says yes, but then again remembers his youth, recalls how embarrassing it would have been for him to have an old relative eating with him and a lover, and politely excuses himself.

"The ball," narration states, "went on until six in the morning..."—well past the time of general fatigue but just late enough for goodbyes that didn't insult the hosts. The Prince sees his family into their carriages, saying he wants to walk home and get some air. As he walks, he is passed by a cart loaded with gut-spilling bulls fresh from the slaughter house and dripping blood onto the road. Further on, he looks at the stars to the west, sees Venus[12] there (see "Quotes", p. 219), and wonders when they, and Venus in particular, will reawaken in him a sense of love and joy.

"Death of a Prince." July 1883.[edit]

For years, the Prince has felt that he is dying, "as if the vital fluid ... life itself in fact and perhaps even the will to go on living, were ebbing out of him ... as grains of sand cluster and then line up one by one, unhurried, unceasing, before the narrow neck of an hourglass." A last minute visit to a doctor has tired him so much that it is decided that he should not go back to the villa outside Palermo, but shall stay in a hotel inside the city itself. As he settles into the hotel, the Prince contemplates the fates of several of his family members—Tancredi's political success in the new Kingdom of Italy, the deaths of Father Pirrone from old age, of Princess Maria from diabetes, and of Paolo after being thrown by a horse. He also recalls the maturation and dignity of Concetta—who, he realizes, is the true heir of what was noble and enduring of the Salina family. He dismisses Paolo's son and biological heir, Fabrizietto as dissolute, shallow, and aimless.

As the Prince receives the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, he considers the joys (sensual, spiritual, political and animal - in particular, the loving and playful Bendicò) and the sorrows (political, sexual, and familial) he's experienced, concluding that out of the seventy-three years he's been alive, he has only fully lived three of them. In his last moments, as his family gathered round, he sees a young woman appear - beautiful, exquisitely dressed, sensitive, and smiling lovingly. Narration describes her in terms identical to those in which it describes a beautiful woman glimpsed at the train station on the way back to Palermo—in other words, death was present in his life even then. As the woman helps him to his feet, he sees her face, and to him she appears "lovelier than she ever had when glimpsed in stellar space."

"Relics" May 1910[edit]

This chapter[13] begins with a reference to "the old Salina ladies," three elderly sisters whose right to have private masses in their home is, as the chapter begins, being investigated by representatives of the Archdiocese of Palermo. That investigation, narration suggests, is being undertaken because the ladies have certain relics in their home that, according to rumor, may not be authentic. Eventually, narration reveals the ladies are the three daughters of the Prince—the authoritarian Concetta, the blunt-spoken Carolina, and the paralyzed Caterina. As the priests enter the chapel, they are surprised to see a sensuously painted "Madonna" hanging behind the altar, and walls lined with relics.

Narration describes how the sisters collected these relics through an intermediary, Donna Rosa, to whom Caterina and Carolina sometimes confessed their dreams of saints and who, sometimes within a week or two of hearing the dreams, miraculously produced a relic of the dreamed-of saint. "Then," narration adds, "Donna Rosa died, and the influx of relics stopped almost completely." When they leave the chapel, the priests speak among themselves about how so many of the relics seem to be of doubtful origin, while the painting appears to be secular and lascivious, and not a painting of the Blessed Virgin as the three sisters claim.

After the priests depart, Concetta retires to her bedroom,[14] where she keeps several locked boxes of decaying mementos of her past, including the skin of her father's dog Bendicò, which had been made into a rug and which is now completely moth-eaten. There, because she is the most pragmatic of the three sisters, she foresees what is about to happen—the confiscation of the relics and the painting, the re-consecration of the chapel, the inevitable spreading of stories of the Salinas' humiliation, and the equally inevitable destruction of what's left of the family's reputation and prestige. Her thoughts are interrupted by a footman announcing the arrival of Princess Angelica Falconeri. Concetta steels herself and goes down to meet her.

The well-preserved Angelica, widowed after Tancredi's death a few years before and already suffering from the disease which will, "transform her into a wretched specter," meets Concetta in the sitting room. She chattily tells Concetta of her plans for celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Garibaldi invasion and speaks in a denigrating manner of the "clericalists", who still believe that the Risorgimento was not the best thing for the Church or the Sicilian people. Angelica also promises to use her influence with the Cardinal to keep the family's embarrassment from going public.

In addition, Angelica informs Concetta that an old friend is coming to call. Senator Tassoni is a veteran of Garibaldi's Redshirts, a close friend and confidant of Tancredi, and former illicit lover of Angelica. Tassoni is shown in, and after speaking flatteringly of how well Tancredi spoke of her, confesses to Concetta that one night Tancredi tearfully confessed to him that he had once told a lie to her, namely the story[15] about the Redshirts' raid on a convent. Tassoni adds that Tancredi had carried the guilt of offending her with him all his life.

After Tassoni and Angelica depart, the horrified Concetta sees Tancredi in a radically different light. What she had once believed was a vulgar attempt to seduce Angelica was really a momentary lapse of judgment. Tancredi loved only her and never ceased to regret marrying Angelica. She also realizes that Tancredi's attempt to enter the convent was in reality a subtle marriage proposal directed to her. It was only her angry rejection which caused him to marry another woman. After fifty years, Concetta is at last stripped of the comfort of blaming her father and cousin for her own mistakes.[16]

The following day, the Cardinal inspects the palace chapel and orders the sisters to replace the painting behind the altar, stating that it does not depict the Blessed Virgin but a woman reading a letter from her lover. He leaves behind a priestly antiquarian to examine the relics and determine which are genuine. A few hours later the priest emerges with a basket full of forged relics and the news that only the few which remain are genuine. As he departs, Caterina furiously comments that Pope Pius X, "must be a Turk." Carolina, however, is left in a faint.

Meanwhile, Concetta returns to her room, and contemplates her possessions there with new perspective. Even the few relics which she once cherished are now only reminders of a life unfulfilled. She also realizes that an unpleasant smell is coming from what remains of the Bendicò rug, and orders it thrown out. "During the flight from the window, its form recomposed itself for an instant; in the air there seemed to be dancing a quadruped with long whiskers, its right foreleg raised in imprecation. Then all found peace in a heap of livid dust."

Locations[edit]

(1860 Map) (1861 Map)

Historical characters[edit]

Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807−1882) the military leader of the Expedition of the Thousand (May 11, 1860 − October 1, 1860) from Marsala in Sicily to northern Lazio (Campania)

Ferdinand II, a Bourbon King of The Two Sicilies. Reigned 8 November 1830 - 22 May 1859. Died shortly before the narration of The Leopard begins. The Bourbons ruled the kingdom from Naples and lived in the Caserta Palace.

Francis II the last Bourbon King of the Two Sicilies. Reigned 22 May 1859 – 20 March 1861.

Victor Emmanuel II the Savoy King of Sardinia 23 March 1849 – 17 March 1861. The King of Italy 17 March 1861 – 9 January 1878. Resident at the Royal Palace of Turin.

Fictional characters[edit]

The Corbera Family

  • Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina—born 1810[18]
  • Maria Stella, Princess of Salina
  • Carolina—eldest of 7 children—born 1840
  • Francesco Paolo—eldest son and heir—born 1844
  • Concetta—second daughter—born 1848[19]
  • Tancredi Falconeri—orphan son of the prince's sister—born 1834
  • Bendicò—the family dog

Others at Salina

  • Father Pirrone—Jesuit family priest—helps the prince with mathematical computations
  • Pietro Russo—steward
  • Ciccio Ferrara—accountant
  • Mademoiselle Dombreuil—governess

Characters at Donnafugata

  • Calogero Sedàra—Mayor of Donnafugata
  • Angelica—Calogero's daughter—born 1844
  • Monsignor Trotolino—priest at Holy Mother Church
  • Ciccio Genestra—notary
  • Onofrio Rotolo—steward
  • Toto Giambono—doctor
  • Ciccio Tumeo—organist at Holy Mother Church—hunting partner of the prince
  • Count Carlo Cavriaghi—friend of Tancredi from Lombardy
  • Knight Aimone Chevalley di Monterzuolo-bureaucrat from Piedmont

Reception[edit]

The novel was assailed from all sides upon its publication. Even the first attempt at its publishing failed when Lampedusa was told by an Italian editor that "his novel is unpublishable." When it was finally posthumously published in 1958, conservative elements criticized its portrayal of the decadence of both the nobility and clergy. Leftist elements attacked the novel for its criticism of Italian unification and the destruction of the nobility. The novel's decidedly non-Marxist depiction of the Sicilian working class also enraged the influential Communist Party of Italy.

Despite or because of this controversy, The Leopard was to gain great critical acclaim, most famously from the English novelist E.M. Forster. In 1959, it won Italy's highest award for fiction, the Strega Prize.[20]

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations[edit]

The novel served as the basis for a movie directed by Luchino Visconti. The film, starring Burt Lancaster, has been described as a fresco of Sicilian life because of its opulent recreation of life. The saturated colours, cinematography, and Visconti's renowned attention to detail all helped make it the winner of the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

20th Century Fox cut the film dramatically for its original 1963 release, but in the 1980s Visconti's vision was re-released with English subtitles and the famous ballroom scene restored to its full 45 minute running time.

Quotation[edit]

"If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change." (spoken by Tancredi)[21]

"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." (spoken by Don Fabrizio)[22]

Current editions[edit]

  • An edition of Il gattopardo following the manuscript of 1957 is published by
  • Milano : Feltrinelli Editore, Universale Economica ISBN 88-07-81028-X
  • Archibald Colquhoun’s English translation, The Leopard, originally published in 1960 by Collins (in the UK) and Pantheon Books (in the US) is available from

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ Skidelsky, William (13 May 2012). "The 10 best historical novels". The Observer (Guardian Media Group). Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  2. ^ Coat of arms of the Tomasi family, on estateinsicilia.it.
  3. ^ Excerpts from a letter by the author to his friend Baron Enrico Merlo di Tagliavia that describes the relationship between the historical and fictional characters:

    There is no need to tell you that the "Prince of Salina" is the Prince of Lampedusa, my great-grandfather Giulio Fabrizio; everything about him is real: his build, his mathematics, the pretense of violence, the skepticism, the wife, the German mother, the refusal to be a senator: Father Pirrone is also authentic, even his name. I think I have given them both a greater degree of intelligence than in fact was the case. ... Tancredi is, physically and in his behavior, Giò; morally a blend of Senator Scalea and his son Pietro. I've no idea who Angelica is, but bear in mind that the name Sedàra is quite similar to "Favara." ... Donnafugata as a village is Palma; as a palace, Santa Margherita. ... Bendicò is a vitally important character and practically the key to the novel.

    From the foreword of the Colquhoun translation, Pantheon paperback edition, p. xii.

  4. ^ Pages 9-48.
  5. ^ see "Quotes", p. 15.
  6. ^ "Quotes", p. 24
  7. ^ "Quotes", p. 33.
  8. ^ Pages 49-85
  9. ^ p. 50.
  10. ^ Page 77
  11. ^ Pages 86-132
  12. ^ Here di Lampedusa committed a double blunder! Venus is never away from the sun than about 48 degrees and cannot be seen in the west while the sun is about to rise in the east. His hero, as an amateur astronomer, would know that basic fact! Secondly, at the time specified for this chapter (November of 1862), Venus was too close to the sun, less than 7 degrees, to be visible even in the east (it had its wide western elongation, thus being visible in the morning in the eastern part of the sky, previous May that year).
  13. ^ Pages 234-255
  14. ^ Page 241
  15. ^ Chapter 2 Part 3.
  16. ^ Page 252.
  17. ^ Colquhoun translation, Pantheon paperback edition, pp. 214f
  18. ^ He was 73 years old in 1883. Colquhoun translation, Pantheon paperback edition, p. 253
  19. ^ She was 40 years old in 1888. Colquhoun translation, Pantheon paperback edition, p. 243
  20. ^ "The Leopard won Italy's highest award for fiction, the Strega Prize, and became a huge best seller." - Dying World of the Last Leopard, New York Times, 1991-08-11.
  21. ^ Colquhoun translation, Pantheon edition, p.40. According to Il romanzo e il film, the Italian original of this is "Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga com'è bisogna che tutto cambi."
  22. ^ Colquhoun translation, Pantheon edition, p.214. According to a page on the Figurella site, the Italian original is "Noi fummo i Gattopardi, i Leoni; quelli che ci sostituiranno saranno gli sciacalletti, le iene. E tutti quanti, Gattopardi, sciacalli e pecore, continueremo a crederci il sale della terra."

Bibliography

  • Dumitrescu, Margareta. Sulla parte VI del Gattopardo. La fortuna di Lampedusa in Romania, Giuseppe Maimone Editore, Catania 2001

External links[edit]