pinknantucket's Reviews > The Leopard

The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
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's review
Nov 28, 09

really liked it
bookshelves: ms-readathon-2006
Read in January, 2006

What can you say about a book that is an acknowledged masterpiece? It is beautiful, terribly sad, frequently amusing (in a sly kind of way)…not a book to read if you’re looking for an upper, though. Apparently it also made a lovely film, but I haven’t seen it so I can’t add my two bits on that.

The Leopard tells the story of the dying days of the Sicilian nobility, during and after the 1860 revolution, led by Garibaldi, that resulted in a unified Italy under King Victor Emmanuel. The main character is the Prince, Don Fabrizio, a Sicilian nobleman, who reflects on the changes to his country and way of life, while negotiating the rise of a new and increasingly wealthy middle class and the corresponding decrease in the fortunes and status of his own family. The novel seems to be about betrayals (personal and state), the sadness of things ending, the feeling that lives have been wasted, mortality, yet this is all presented gently and eloqently, so the the sadness steals over you while you think you are just enjoying the language.

I do wish I could read Italian, so I could read the original and then compare it to this translation. I wonder how different they are? It must be like writing a whole new book…well, kudos to Archibald Colquhuon (the translator), kudos. I remember being disappointed with Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, because I thought the writing would be more beautiful than it was – it felt kind of clunky, and I wondered if the original Italian novel was more lyrical and poetical, or if Eco just wasn’t a poetical kind of guy. No such worries here, though.

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