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Monthly Readings/Screenings > The Leopard (Feb. 08)

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message 1: by Kimley (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Hi Everyone,

Well, it's been awfully quiet around here! I'm so sorry last month's selection ended up being so difficult for everyone to locate. Hopefully this month's will be more readily available and more of you can join us.

So, we're back in Italy this month but the previous century. I read this book and saw the film about 15 years ago so I'll need to reread/rewatch in order to discuss it in any detail.

Hope everyone enjoys it!

message 2: by Robert (new)

Robert | 111 comments I started reading it today. (I read it once before, about 20 years ago..) I had forgotten that it's a relatively modern novel - published in 1958 - and tend to think of it as a 19th century piece. So when Visconti made the film version it was much more of a contemporary best-seller than a long-standing classic... I think there are newer translations than mine....

message 3: by Kimley (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Robert, all the copies that appear to be in print now seem to be the same translation - Archibald Colquhoun's which is (according to my copy from the early 90's) from 1960 so probably the first English translation. It does seem strange that there hasn't been a more recent translation. I guess his is pretty good!

I actually got a copy of the book in Italian from the library but my Italian is very rusty so we'll see. I have my English copy for back-up.

message 4: by Robert (new)

Robert | 111 comments My edition is a garish (the cover is really hideous) trade-size "Time Reading Program" paperback (evidently some sort of Time-Life sponsored Book club) copyrighted 1960 but published around 1966.

message 5: by Kimley (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Robert, is it the Colquhoun translation? I'm just curious as to whether there are any other English translations out there.

message 6: by Robert (new)

Robert | 111 comments Yes, it's Colquhoun. I'm surprised there hasn't been another translation in the last 45 years...

message 7: by Kimley (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
It's so quiet here... I'm still not done reading myself. I think I'm just going to crank through the English version this weekend so I can start discussions already.

Here's a link from wikipedia about Lampedusa:

And here's some background on the Italian Risorgimento:

message 8: by Kimley (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
So, how's everyone doing? Is anyone joining us this month besides Robert?

I read about half of the book yesterday and I'd forgotten what a dreamy, other-worldly quality it has.

Hopefully I'll finish the book today and I've got the film on its way to me this week.

message 9: by Tosh (new)

Tosh | 68 comments I'm running late due to this other mega-book I am reading. I am sort of a slow-reader. But I just purchased The Leopard in my local used bookstore. I am going to tear into each page, sentence by sentence, watch the film on dvd, and watch it frame-to-frame. My writing will be so deep that it will seem empty. I can't wait!

message 10: by Kimley (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Tosh, you never cease to crack me up!

On the plus side, The Leopard is a very fast read - as a matter of fact it might be quicker to read the book than watch the film!

message 11: by Kimley (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
OK, I'm reading along and there's this line a few pages into the Love at Donnafugata chapter:

"...[Angelica] murmured into his ear, "Uncle mine!"; a highly successful line, comparable to Eisenstein's baby carriage..."

I presume he's referencing Eisenstein's famous scene in his film Battleship Potemkin but it was a really jolting reference. As Robert mentioned earlier the book has a real 19th century feel to it even though it was written mid 20th century.

I found the scene on YouTube for those interested:

message 12: by Adam (new)

Adam | 10 comments I'm about 80 pages from completing it, yeah my only complaint so far is that its written by an anonymous 20th century narrator that will drop references to Freud, airplanes, and other modern references that are clunky and obtrusive in an otherwise seamless narrative.

message 13: by Robert (new)

Robert | 111 comments I'm about half-way through it and I'm intrigued by the note in the Wikipedia article that Lampedusa originally planned on having the action take place in a single day. I'm not sure how that would have worked, but I enjoy the passivity of the hero and the way he seems to just wander through everything so distantly.
Accordingly, the anachronisms that Adam mentions don't really bother me. The book is a slightly hazy recollection of the past written from a modern (i.e., mid-20th century) perspective.

Which brings to mind another novel I've been meaning to re-read, John Fowles' "The French Lieutenant's Woman"...

message 14: by Adam (last edited Feb 14, 2008 09:12AM) (new)

Adam | 10 comments I think the final chapters eases the modern references as it moves it into the 20th century...they jar at first but on thinking it over they don't really mar the whole. Alright I'm incoherent review posted...will watch the movie this weekend. And will read Contempt, but first The Conformist.

message 15: by Kimley (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Yeah, Adam, I agree with you on the 20th century references. They are very jarring but considering where he ends up going in the book - right before WWI and the coming atrocities of the 20th century it does work. Though the Eisenstein reference I found really jarring as it seemed more a pop culture reference but I can see where he was going with that.

But I really loved the whole dichotomy of change/no change in this book. The Prince really lives in his own world and it's so perfect that he is obsessed with astronomy removing him even further from the "real world" events around him.

I've rented the DVD and will watch the film this weekend.

message 16: by Kimley (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
I watched the film yesterday and was amazed at just how literal an adaptation it was. Except for the end...

But I'll wait until some others have watched it before further discussion.

message 17: by Robert (new)

Robert | 111 comments I think the seemingly anachronistic references are an important feature of the overall tone of the book. Don Fabrezio is mourning the loss of the world of royalty that he knew and that he sees disappearing, but Lampedusa is writing in the modern world for an audience even further removed from it. The references to what he assumes his reader knows, like the foreshadowing of tancredi's later career and marriage, may be a way of getting the reader to share Fabrezio's sense of loss and removal from his own past.

I haven't re-viewed the film again, but hope to get to it this week. There is something of a string of historical and epic films in the 60s and 70s - Bertolucci's "1900", Cimino's "The Deer Hunter" and "Heaven's Gate", and of course the first two "Godfather" films - that were all inspired by Visconti's film, though it was largely unknown (or at least under-appreciated) in the US until sometime around the late 80s...

message 18: by Robert (new)

Robert | 111 comments I finished reading the novel today (I had read it once before - sometime in 1986, judging from a slip of paper I found in my copy) and - without revealing too much for those still at work - I wonder how others in this group interpret the last chapter. I was especially curious about the emphasis on religion, something that really doesn't seem very important to Don Fabrezio throughout most of the book. Any comments?

message 19: by Adam (new)

Adam | 10 comments Yes the movie is a really thorough adaptation like Visconti for the most part did with Death in Venice, but unlike that movie everything he adds is great (though he removes the framing and makes it a more straight forward epic). Visconti gives it a bit of Marxist interpretation as it echoes the critiques of bourgeois revolution. Its definately the most consistent Visconit I have seen... so my response is positive for the movie.

message 20: by Robert (new)

Robert | 111 comments As Kimley mentioned, the film is amazingly faithful to the book, even when it rearranges the sequence of events. The scene with Lancaster and the priest in the bath is priceless. But in the novel, when the priest announces that Concetta is in love with Tancredi, I got the feeling that this would lead to disappointment, whereas in the film, it's immediately clear that Don Fabrezio has dismissed the possibility of this pairing, which places Concetta's eventual spinsterhood in a very different setting.

message 21: by Kimley (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Robert and Adam, great comments! I didn't want you to think I wasn't paying attention. Just been swamped with work and not had time to really write anything too thoughful....

The ending of the book sort of brought me back to the discussion we had with A Clockwork Orange. I'm still trying to wrap my head around all of it but it definitely felt a bit removed from the rest of the book and I'm not surprised that Visconti left it off the film.

Robert, I think it's interesting your point about the emphasis on religion in that last chapter. To me it seems that religion is throughout the book but in a very superficial way like when Father Pirrone tries to get the Prince to confess after his "night out". Religion has no real meaning for the Prince and so to me it wasn't surprising that Concetta would buy relics that she assumed were fakes. It's seems like it's some kind of symbol of stability as everything else is changing. Religion is always a constant but meaningless which to me deals with the interesting nature of change vs. no change. Is change good or bad?

message 22: by Nikki (new)

Nikki | 8 comments I just finished the book yesterday.

Visconti's adaptation is so faithful to the book, it's almost mind-boggling. Other people were distracted by the random modern references in the book, but I found myself distracted by memories of the movie. So many sections instantly brought the corresponding scene in the movie to mind: the Leopard getting out of the bath, the Leopard and Tumeo hunting and talking politics, Tancredi and Angelica looking young and beautiful in abandoned rooms, the whole final ball scene. I haven't seen the movie for a few years , but apparently it left quite an impression.

I'm not really certain what to think of the last chapter, but I did love the final image of Bendico flying through the air.

message 23: by Kimley (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Nikki, I can completely understand how the film would so dominate your reading of the book. The images are pretty powerful and wonderful. I find this to happen to me a lot when I see a film (well, a good film) before reading a book. It's tough to escape.

And I agree, there was something so poignant, beautiful and sad with poor old ratty Bendico being tossed away like yesterday's trash, no longer useful not even as a decorative memento.

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