Elegiac, bittersweet and profoundly moving, The Leopard chronicles the turbulent transformation of the Risorgimento, in the period of Italian Unification. The waning feudal authority of the elegant and stately Prince of Salina is pitted against the materialistic cunning of Don Calogero, in Tomasi's magnificently descriptive memorial to a dying age.
Tomasi's award-winning, semi-autobiographical book became the best-selling novel in Italian history, and is now considered one of the greatest works of 20th-century fiction. It tells an age-old tale of the conflict between old and new, ancient and modern, reflecting bitterly on the inevitability and cruelty of change.
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A gem of a book that seems to effortlessly interweave the personal, the political, and the mythological. As if it weren't evocative enough already, factor in that di Lampedusa is the great-grandson of the eponymous real-life Leopard--the mind reels. I can't imagine a better narrator for this work than Horovitch--his voice reflects all the book's nuanced emotion, from humor to profound loss, and his pacing is equally sensitive. (BTW, the title for this review is a quote from E.M. Forster.)
Aristocrat, landholder, family man, libertine, scientist, Don Fabrizio the Prince of Salina is all of these. The risorgimento, that united the Italian peninsula into a single nation, is ongoing. His favorite nephew marries the beautiful and wealthy daughter of a former peasant. He sees the end of the world where he and his ancestors once were the lords of their proviincial manor. The action in this novel in this novel is largely offstage; by the time the Garibaldini reached Sicily, the unification of Italy was a foregone conclusion. Insteady we see the day to day life of the the Prince and his family: his devout wife, his 3 daughters, his sons, and his lively dog, Bentico. We feel the discomfort of riding in a hot carriage, as the family travels from Palermo to their estate at Donna Fugata, the boredom of the elegant society evening, the cynicism of the Prince as he looks to the future, knowing that the people of Sicily will resist any change, no matter how much it might improve their lot.
This marvelous translation is beautifully read by David Horovitch.
always looking for the next fabulous audiobook. I'm so glad to have found the audible website.
the book that I keep going back to.
the two lovers, Tancredi and Angelica exploring and becoming lost in the old and decaying mansion, finding hidden rooms, compartments, courtyards.
someone has previously said of this book that it is 'effortlessly exotic and wise', and I entirely agree.
I love the way that through this story, we are given a glimpse into a world that encompasses the personal, the political, and beyond.
I am sure it is a book that can be listened to on many different levels, but what the author conveys somehow is that the characters are players in a time and place constrained by historical forces, that power struggles in society are ongoing, that one form of political ideology or authority in surplants another, and nothing really changes.
It makes that Prince's interest in astronomy with its stars and comets, a consoling
sort of hobby to have in the light of what he sees around him.
There is a sort of wisdom in this telling, which never intrudes onto the story, that is always incredibly touching.
This is one of the most beautiful books I have ever listened to. It fully evokes another era and another land. It's a little hard to get into, but be patient and you will fall in love with it. The main character is fascinating and the narrator is excellent. I will be listening to it many more times.
This book is wonderful on so many levels I can't even begin to put my feelings into words. I'm so sorry the author only wrote one book. I'll just have to listen to this one over and over -- sort of throwing myself into the briar patch. But I've also found the book and movie on Amazon. I'm wondering if the movie captures the poetry, humor and subtleness of the author.
David Horovitch is the perfect narrator. Just couldn't be better.
This has become one of my favorite books of all time.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Don Fabrizio of the house of Salina has the misfortune to be a Prince of Sicily during the chaotic time of the 19th-century Risorgimento. Rebel fires burn in the hills, foreign warships lurk in the harbour, and Garibaldi is leading the army of King Victor Emmanuel to forcibly unify Italy, including Bourbon Sicily. Although the Prince is a huge, powerful “leonine” man capable of bending coins and silverware in his controlled rages, he feels impotent to stop the forces of change consuming his country and class, by which men of business (hyenas and jackals) lacking manners and morals are buying up the lands and power of the declining aristocratic families (lions and leopards). Because the Prince is a product of the “pride and intellectuality of his mother and the sensuality and irresponsibility of his father,” he feels alienated from his family and friends, who find him forbidding and eccentric. Three things give him consolation: his astronomical hobby (discovering planets, gaining the illusion that his calculations are controlling the movements of heavenly bodies, and cleansing himself in the constant purity of stars), his loyal Great Dane Bendico (relying on his phlegmatic presence and indulging his ravages of the garden), and his orphan nephew Tancredi (enjoying his handsome figure, ironic wit, and ambitious adaptability to the new era and loving him more than his own disappointing sons).
Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa was himself a descendent of a Prince who inspired his historical fiction about Don Fabrizio when he wrote The Leopard (1958). The novel depicts the decay and decline of the Sicilian (and Italian) aristocracy, as perceived by the Prince, an intelligent, cultured, and thoughtful man capable of empathy, self-awareness, and self-justification. Di Lampedusa tells his story in eight chapters, the first six of which occur between 1860 and 1862, the seventh in 1873, and the last in 1910. The story introduces Don Fabrizio, his family, his country, and their troubles, depicts the family’s summer visit to their estate in the countryside, where young people fall in love and Don Fabrizio must try to negotiate a humiliating but practical marriage, and concludes with yet another prestige-losing trial for the Salinas, a twentieth-century Papal examination of family religious "relics" that ends up settling the fate of the long-stuffed Bendico, the only true Salina relic.
The Leopard vividly depicts Sicilian character and culture (marked by 2500 years of being colonized by other civilizations and by six months each year of 100+ temperatures). And such is the quality of di Lampedusa’s insights into human nature that his novel transcends its time and place and reveals the universal human condition.
It's not an optimistic vision. The Prince says cynical things about love ("Flames for a year, ashes for thirty"), family ("every time one sees a relative, one finds a thorn"), leadership ("the faculty of self-deception [is the] essential requisite for wanting to guide others"), and mortality ("We all die with a mask on our features)." And yet the very honesty, the deep empathy with various people--male, female, old, young, aristocrat, peasant, etc.--and even dogs and gods, and the humor, all make reading the novel a poignant pleasure.
In its translation from the Italian original into English by (I think) Archibald Colquhoun, the novel is richly written, di Lampedusa’s prose being full of beauty, irony, and rich, witty, sensual descriptions worthy of savoring, like this one:
"It was a garden for the blind, a constant offense to the eyes, a pleasure strong, if somewhat crude, to the nose. The Paul Neyron roses, whose cuttings he had himself bought in Paris had degenerated; first stimulated and then enfeebled by the strong if languid pull of Sicilian earth, burned by apocalyptic Julys, they had changed into things like flesh-colored cabbages, obscene and distilling a dense, almost indecent, scent which no French horticulturalist would have dared hope for. The Prince put one under his nose and seemed to be sniffing the thigh of a dancer from the Opera. Bendico, to whom it was also proffered, drew back in disgust and hurried off in search of healthier sensations amid dead lizards and manure."
The depiction of young lovers exploring forgotten rooms in a labyrinthine palace is intoxicating.
And di Lampedusa enjoys the occasional provocative foreshadowing, e.g., "Such youthful simplicities she was to discard completely when, years later, she became one of the most venomous string pullers for Parliament and Senate."
The reader, David Horovitch, is excellent, his voice and manner perfectly suited to reading an ironic, tragic, funny, and sad novel from the point of view of a proud and philosophical man helplessly presiding over the decline of his class and family. Because I had just finished listening to Horovitch read Ovid's Metamorphoses before listening to him read The Leopard, I often had the illusion that di Lampedusa was continuing Ovid's work, partly due to the many references to gods and goddesses of antiquity and partly due to the theme of inevitable change that may be a blessing or a curse.
Anyone interested in Sicily or rich, concise, and psychologically accurate novels about past times that speak to our times would probably like The Leopard.
This is one of the most beautiful novels I've ever read and it's also somewhat unnerving because of how often it forces you to confront your own life, your past, and your mortality. Each time the Prince recalls his past or observes the world he currently lives in, I felt myself having to take a deep breath and press on towards what I knew was going to be some vaguely uncomfortable realizations about what it means to get older.
I kept thinking about King Lear as the novel went on, however, where Lear set in motion the engine of his demise by dividing up his kingdom, the Prince here is at the mercy of the times. He lives in a world - Sicily - that instead of being divided and carved up is in the throes of consolidation. Sicily's unique identity, and thus the Prince's, is being taken from him and being absorbed. And he's powerless to do anything about it.
So in a way his story hits even closer to home than Lear's because of how little control even a powerful man like Prince Fabrizio has over the events around him. And some of this lack of control is not always external, but internal as well. Though a large, powerful man, he's also a little lazy, and not as smart as he would like. He never seemed able to really manage his estate and solved his problems by selling off tracts of land when he got in a bind. Slowly he whittled his own life away.
Yet it's not all sad, either. He seems like a man who, though he doesn't believe it, really did live a full life. He may have spent most of it being indulgent and not working towards any greater good for society, but he did at least enjoy his life, unlike his daughter who realizes much to late she spent her life believing something that was not true - just like her relics.
And when the Prince dies we never get these sense he wasted his life, rather he just wasn't able to hang onto it. And who can, really? Some families may have long branches that extend for generations, but the tree eventually dies. And what can we do when we are confronted with the fact that life will get away from us all? Well we could try to enjoy it, we could be more like the Prince's dog, Bendicò, that mischievous doggy who even long after death manages to give one last taste of playfulness about him.
There is no optimistic or pessimistic message here. The novel has no answers, it only explores a life and what it means to confront your own life. That's why I found it vaguely unsettling at times because these are thoughts I'm not eager to spend much (or any) time dwelling on - better to just live than think about living. Yet there will come a time where everyone has to look honestly at their own life and reckon with their own sense of worthwhile. And we shouldn't worry so much about the past or about events around us we cannot control, the world is going to change if we like it or not no matter how much we are able to control.
Yet hopefully we'll be remembered even just a little bit, even if it is just in a small way, the way the image of the leopard is worn by the priest at the end of the novel who carts away the useless old relics.
Masterly written story of the decline of Sicilian prince in the late 1800's. Gripping, even though very little actually happens except a marriage of a penniless and dashing male relative to the gorgeous daughter of a wealthy parvenu. But it's not a romance. Somehow, though, you care about the characters. Kind of an Italian Trollope, with the landscape and weather of Sicily playing an interesting and crucial role. Well-performed by the reader, too.
It had such a rich classical feel with humor and tragedy.
Some of them. Those who like the 'Classics'. Here we re-live our own lives, emotions and realise not much has happened in literature in hundreds of years.
No. But his rendition of this novel was indeed a most wonderful performance. Rich and textured. A delight to hear his characterisation and his sympathy to the culture of long ago in Southern Italy.
I cannot recall her name as it is a while since I read this. But the the lady who recognised she had never been aware of the affection of her beloved. Very Shakespearean.
No I need to read this over and over again. Short enough to do so. However, I am listening to more than 10 x more than I used read - and enjoying Audible.com so much so that I am not exactly free to do this!
A must read if you plan to visit Sicily--as I did. Also recommend the movie version with Burt Reynolds. Read
The chapter of his death.
First time I've heard him and loved his narration. Made the book much more enjoyable than reading would have been.
Helped me understand Sicily and Sicilians.
"The Leopard by Tomasi Lampedusa"
Once again a wonderful reading by David Horovitz. His mellifluous voice is so well suited to the inner thoughts turned over in the mind of the Prince. His 'character' voices, for example of old peasants, are never charicatures but believable people - in fact one believes in all his characters, whether they be men or women, young of old.
The novel is, as billed, bitter-sweet and nostalgic, summoning up the mid-19th century in Sicily with all its richness, poverty, pride and confusion. The constant effect of the weather on the inhabitants, especially the relentless heat,is well shown.
Maureen in her review hits the nail on the head. This is a superb book, beautifully written - the original Italian must be like eating a box of rich chocolates - and beautifully narrated. The themes of ageing, the eternal tension between tradition and change, and the bittersweet pleasure of memory and nostalgia have seldom been better explored. I can well understand why this book was a huge bestseller.
five stars for me.
"A love affair with Sicily"
Hooked on Montalbano? This is the book to set Sicily into a historical context with its story of a declining aristocracy in the nineteenth century from the Risorgimento to the end of the century but with echoes of what is to come after. Wonderful characters that you get to know so well in all their frailty, and so much about the country and its people. A well deserved classic that is beautifully read.
a wonderful story beautifully told; i wonder who translated it-the language is first rate. i highly recommend it.
"Classic read. Don't miss it"
Really enjoyed this book. The book has been on my shelves for years but never read. This was much the best way to fall under its spell. Now waiting to read the original.
I was disappointed by this recording, which didn't do a magnificent text justice; the narrator felt wrong ? not serious enough, perhaps?
I like to think I know what I'm talking about (!) 'The Leopard' is one of my favourite books and I've read it many times.
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