By Giuseppe di Lampedusa
1957; Re-release, 2007
I don't remember the Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale film, "The Leopard" that was released in 1963. Most of my contemporaries do. I am looking forward to asking my daughter to order it on Netflix; or, maybe the
At the time of its publication, in left circles, the book seems to have also caused considerable waves, at least when it was published in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
The response to the book was a classical reaction from those who take a dim view of historical novels which don't clearly state the backward, reactionary world that is being written about. To others, who accept and cheer these novels for they accurately describe the times being written about, and by doing that describe the backwardness that they, in fact, at.
In the case of The Leopard, Italian Marxists were displeased with the book; and, at least one French Marxist was pleased. [In a rather honest description, to some extent of the reactions, Donadio uses these descriptive political terms. The NY Times Book Review too often prints only pejorative references to Marxists.] Alberto Moravio, the Italian Marxist, did not like the novel, saying, according to Donadio, that the book glorified the feudalism of the day. While, Louis Aragon, a member of the French Communist Party, disagreed, again according to Donadio who only referred to him as a Marxist, and found the book an attack on feudalism and its decaying families.
The derivation of the book is not disputed. The writer, Giuseppe di Lampedusa was born, in 1896, into aristocratic family that was from
Italian film director, Luchino Visconti read the book and made the film, "The Leopard" into a very successful film. He attracted Lancaster and Cardinale which assured its success.
The story is a classic family epic that goes from the time of the unification of
Lampedusa describes a feudal landlord's life, Don Fabrizio, the Prince of
The book takes us through the ascendancy of Garibaldi's landing in
The Prince's daughters and cousins take on importance with the passing of the Prince. The finality of the novel, and probably the point where
Placing these historical novels into their proper place is not unusual. It is good that Donadio used Marxist to make that debate, others would have been side tracked by other issues. For us, the correct placing of the revolutionary war, the Civil War, and other milestones of the
While the historical aspects of the book are very interesting and useful, the litmus test for my novel reading is the ability of the writer to engage readers with engrossing character developments. On that score, he does an excellent job. You find yourself living life in a decaying society with people who you learn a lot about. You don't necessarily become their partisans, but you certainly are interested on what happens to them. In fact, you wish for more. But, alas, that wasn't the purpose of the novel to begin with.