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The Leopard

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Overview

A classic of modern fiction. Set in the 1860s, THE LEOPARD is the spellbinding story of a decadent, dying Sicilian aristocracy threatened by the approaching forces of democracy and revolution.
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The Leopard: A Novel

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Overview

A classic of modern fiction. Set in the 1860s, THE LEOPARD is the spellbinding story of a decadent, dying Sicilian aristocracy threatened by the approaching forces of democracy and revolution.
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Editorial Reviews

Daniel Mendelsohn
[A] masterpiece...this dense, dazzling novel, which contrasts the aging, melancholy prince Don Fabrizio with his headstrong nephew Tancredi, is one of the five or six greatest of the nineteenth century, it just happened to be written in the 1950's.
New York
From the Publisher
"The genius of its author and the thrill it gives the reader are probably for all time."
The New York Times Book Review

"A masterwork . . . A superb novel in the great tradition and the grand manner."
Newsweek

"A majestic, melancholy, and beautiful novel."
—The New Yorker

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9789626349960
  • Publisher: Naxos Audiobooks Ltd.
  • Publication date: 11/28/2009
  • Series: Complete Classics Series
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged, 7 CDs, 9 hrs. 2 min.
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

GIUSEPPE DI LAMPEDUSA was born in Sicily in 1896 and died in 1957. The Leopard was his only novel.

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Read an Excerpt

The Leopard

A Novel
By Giuseppe Di Lampedusa

Pantheon

Copyright © 2007 Giuseppe Di Lampedusa
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780375714795

May, 1860

Nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

The daily recital of the Rosary was over. For half an hour the steady voice of the Prince had recalled the Glorious and the Sorrowful Mysteries; for half an hour other voices had interwoven a lilting hum from which, now and again, would chime some unlikely word: love, virginity, death; and during that hum the whole aspect of the rococo drawing room seemed to change; even the parrots spreading iridescent wings over the silken walls appeared abashed; even the Magdalen between the two windows looked a penitent and not just a handsome blonde lost in some dubious daydream, as she usually was.

Now, as the voices fell silent, everything dropped back into its usual order or disorder. Bendicò, the Great Dane, vexed at having been shut out, came barking through the door by which the servants had left. The women rose slowly to their feet, their oscillating skirts as they withdrew baring bit by bit the naked figures from mythology painted all over the milky depths of the tiles. Only an Andromeda remained covered by the soutane of Father Pirrone, still deep in extra prayer, and it was some time before she could sight the silvery Perseus swooping down to her aid and her kiss.

Thedivinities frescoed on the ceiling awoke. The troops of Tritons and Dryads, hurtling across from hill and sea amid clouds of cyclamen pink toward a transfigured Conca d’Oro,* and bent on glorifying the House of Salina, seemed suddenly so overwhelmed with exaltation as to discard the most elementary rules of perspective; meanwhile the major gods and goddesses, the Princes among gods, thunderous Jove and frowning Mars and languid Venus, had already preceded the mob of minor deities and were amiably supporting the blue armorial shield of the Leopard. They knew that for the next twenty-three and a half hours they would be lords of the villa once again. On the walls the monkeys went back to pulling faces at the cockatoos.

Beneath this Palermitan Olympus the mortals of the House of Salina were also dropping speedily from mystic spheres. The girls resettled the folds in their dresses, exchanged blue-eyed glances and snatches of schoolgirl slang; for over a month, ever since the “riots” of the Fourth of April, they had been home for safety’s sake from their convent, and regretting the canopied dormitories and collective coziness of the Holy Redeemer. The boys were already scuffling with each other for possession of a medal of San Francesco di Paola; the eldest, the heir, the young Duke Paolo, was longing to smoke and, afraid of doing so in his parents’ presence, was fondling the outside of his pocket in which lurked a braided-straw cigar case. His gaunt face was veiled in brooding melancholy it had been a bad day: Guiscard, his Irish sorrel, had seemed off form, and Fanny had apparently been unable (or unwilling) to send him her usual lilac-tinted billet-doux. Of what avail then, to him, was the Incarnation of his Savior?

Restless and domineering, the Princess dropped her rosary brusquely into her jet-fringed bag, while her fine crazy eyes glanced around at her slaves of children and her tyrant of a husband, over whom her diminutive body vainly yearned for loving dominion.

Meanwhile he himself, the Prince, had risen to his feet; the sudden movement of his huge frame made the floor tremble, and a glint of pride flashed in his light blue eyes at this fleeting confirmation of his lordship over both human beings and their works.

Now he was settling the huge scarlet missal on the chair which had been in front of him during his recitation of the Rosary, putting back the handkerchief on which he had been kneeling, and a touch of irritation clouded his brow as his eye fell on a tiny coffee stain which had had the presumption, since that morning, to fleck the vast white expanse of his waistcoat.

Not that he was fat; just very large and very strong; in houses inhabited by common mortals his head would touch the lowest rosette on the chandeliers; his fingers could twist a ducat coin as if it were mere paper; and there was constant coming and going between Villa Salina and a silversmith’s for the mending of forks and spoons which, in some fit of controlled rage at table, he had coiled into a hoop. But those fingers could also stroke and handle with the most exquisite delicacy, as his wife Maria Stella knew only too well; and up in his private observatory at the top of the house the gleaming screws, caps, and studs of the telescopes, lenses, and “comet-finders” would answer to his lightest touch.

The rays of the westering sun, still high on that May afternoon, lit up the Prince’s rosy skin and honey-colored hair; these betrayed the German origin of his mother, the Princess Carolina, whose haughtiness had frozen the easygoing Court of the Two Sicilies thirty years before. But in his blood also fermented other German strains particularly disturbing to a Sicilian aristocrat in the year 1860, however attractive his fair skin and hair amid all that olive and black: an authoritarian temperament, a certain rigidity in morals, and a propensity for abstract ideas; these, in the relaxing atmosphere of Palermo society, had changed respectively into capricious arrogance, recurring moral scruples, and contempt for his own relatives and friends, all of whom seemed to him mere driftwood in the languid meandering stream of Sicilian pragmatism.

In a family which for centuries had been incapable even of adding up their own expenditures and subtracting their own debts he was the first (and last) to have a genuine bent for mathematics; this he had applied to astronomy, and by his work gained a certain official recognition and a great deal of personal pleasure. In his mind, now, pride and mathematical analysis were so linked as to give him an illusion that the stars obeyed his calculations too (as, in fact, they seemed to be doing) and that the two small planets which he had discovered (“Salina” and “Speedy” he had called them, after his main estate and a shooting dog he had been particularly fond of) would spread the fame of his family through the empty spaces between Mars and Jupiter, thus transforming the frescoes in the villa from the adulatory to the prophetic.

Between the pride and intellectuality of his mother and the sensuality and irresponsibility of his father, poor Prince Fabrizio lived in perpetual discontent under his Jovelike frown, watching the ruin of his own class and his own inheritance without ever making, still less wanting to make, any move toward saving it.

That half hour between Rosary and dinner was one of the least irritating moments of his day, and for hours beforehand he would savor its rather uncertain calm.



With a wildly excited Bendicò bounding ahead of him he went down the short flight of steps into the garden. Enclosed between three walls and a side of the house, its seclusion gave it the air of a cemetery, accentuated by the parallel little mounds bounding the irrigation canals and looking like the graves of very tall, very thin giants. Plants were growing in thick disorder on the reddish clay; flowers sprouted in all directions, and the myrtle hedges seemed put there to prevent movement rather than guide it. At the end a statue of Flora speckled with yellow-black lichen exhibited her centuries-old charms with an air of resignation; on each side were benches holding quilted cushions, also of gray marble; and in a corner the gold of an acacia tree introduced a sudden note of gaiety. Every sod seemed to exude a yearning for beauty soon muted by languor.

But the garden, hemmed and almost squashed between these barriers, was exhaling scents that were cloying, fleshy, and slightly putrid, like the aromatic liquids distilled from the relics of certain saints; the carnations superimposed their pungence on the formal fragrance of roses and the oily emanations of magnolias drooping in corners; and somewhere beneath it all was a faint smell of mint mingling with a nursery whiff of acacia and the jammy one of myrtle; from a grove beyond the wall came an erotic waft of early orange blossom.

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 horticulturist 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. Bendicò, to whom it was also proffered, drew back in disgust and hurried off in search of healthier sensations amid dead lizards and manure.

But the heavy scents of the garden brought on a gloomy train of thought for the Prince: “It smells all right here now; but a month ago . . .”

He remembered the nausea diffused throughout the entire villa by certain sweetish odors before their cause was traced: the corpse of a young soldier of the Fifth Regiment of Sharpshooters who had been wounded in the skirmish with the rebels at San Lorenzo and come up there to die, all alone, under a lemon tree. They had found him lying face downward in the thick clover, his face covered in blood and vomit, his nails dug into the soil, crawling with ants; a pile of purplish intestines had formed a puddle under his bandoleer. Russo, the agent, had discovered this object, turned it over, covered its face with his red kerchief, thrust the guts back into the gaping stomach with some twigs, and then covered the wound with the blue flaps of the cloak; spitting continuously with disgust, meanwhile, not right on, but very near the body. And all this with meticulous care. “Those swine stink even when they’re dead.” It had been the only epitaph to that derelict death.

*Conca d’Oro, literally “Golden Shell,” is the name of the hills encircling Palermo.

Continues...

Excerpted from The Leopard by Giuseppe Di Lampedusa Copyright © 2007 by Giuseppe Di Lampedusa. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 15 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2003

    Limbo and its depths

    The vigour and audacity of this novel is never compromised throughout, and moreover it is persistently definied with markings of an apocalyptic doom which postmodern currents struggle to comprehend. To read this novel is to witness the expression of a community in distress, as it finds itself fidgeting to keep its composure while arrested amidst a quandary and a stalemate that courses without ribaldry or expressing disrespect for a tradition and a cultural milieu that preserves its ambiguity and its distorted propriety. The discomfort of the probing characters is strung and strummed so as to strike a melodious ravishment that transgresses all values and disarms the structural apogee of the narrative. In its many particulars, and brusque, yet delicate lyrical tendencies, this novel gives delusional recordings of an island distant and beyond memory. Here we hear the tourbadour's chant nearing with incredulous apathy, both the harmony of a siren song, and the discordant twang of a swan song. Sicilians have a heritage of million of years whcih resonates throughout, and apologizing for my not being a Sicilian, I would suggest a visit to Siracusa, Palermo, Catania, or even off the coast to Taranto (Calabria) to remind us that Odysseus was a Sicilian by all means. Why not?, this may be the embodying of an Odyssey the way it ought to be when transported through time. Di Lampedusa is a classic in disguise. A trickster as well as a true philosopher. I have found such a high quality of 'delightful disturbance' only in a handful of artists. Primaraly in De Chirico's paintings, which parallels astoundingly well alongside any reading of 'Il Gattopardo,' much more incisively than any Surrealist's writing ever has. In literature a few examples might be found in Stifter's 'Indian Summer' or in contemporary authors Duras (The Lopver, The ravishing of Lol,' and 'The Malady of Death.')and in W.G. Sebald (especially in his masterwork 'The Emigrants.') I ought to add Thomas Mann ('Buddenbrooks,' 'Doctor Faustus,' 'The Magic Mountain,' and 'Death in Venice.') although so much has been said about the last, and Mann is undeniably a virtuoso, that the terror and the sheer lax angst is perhaps dissipated within the operative of the narrative and its compelling lyrical brilliance. All are a must read, but it is only in DiLampedusa that a special stunning clarity pervades. It is only in accepting the fading and palliating of life's 'truth' that the ensuing beravement of sorrow commences to compose a tale so real it says nothing, if not that, not to be trite, 'all is just dust in the wind.' However Di Lampedusa conspires - abetted by cultural ebulliance and elegance both - to navigate this voyage as if seized within a standstill. Chimed from afar floats a decadent sweltering heat, while basking underneath is found the novel's storyline. Please plug your ears, or have someone tie you to something or other, else would that you were to identify yourself with one of the novel's lives you'd never leave: In blissfull doom you'd perish along this shoreline! Hereby the island's lure is a perfect lie that speaks fables of yesterday in daring, lingering overtones, consonant with the cunning splendid mirage of sex appeal. A Book for all and none....

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2000

    a book review for the book

    i would like a book review about ten to fifteen pages, about the political aspects of the book by lampedusa, the leopard.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2000

    A magnificent epic

    Lampedusa weaves a colorful and detailed portrayal of Sicilian royalty in the years during and after the Risorgiomento. His artistry, and its seemingly effortless English transformation leave the reader feeling transported directly onto the grounds and into the drawing rooms of the Salina villa in 19th century Sicily.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2011

    Hard to understand

    Pretty hard to understand..

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  • Posted January 1, 2009

    Wonderfully written

    This is that rarest of books-- one that is beautifully written and which gives keen insight into a time and place. An Historical novel, such that one comes away from the read with knowledge and insight into the Sicily of 1860 -- which seems very much the Sicily of today -- and of the Sicilian character.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2006

    An overrated story

    This book has been rated as one of the Top 100 of the 20th century and highly acclaimed by many who should know literature. I think they are wrong. It's a decent story, not badly told. But it has no depth. It is rather slow-moving, rather dull, and the serious thought behind it comes out too little, too late, and from the wrong mouths. If you have a special interest in the history of Sicily, the book has some appeal. But if you are just looking for a good book to read, there are many better ones.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2005

    Stunning

    Even in translation, Lampedusa's 'Leopoard' is a stunning achievment. In immaculate prose, and paced more finely than 99% of literature, this superb volume will effortlessly transport the reader to a moody and sultry Sicily. The characters are alive, the settings detailed, the narrative thoughtful and always engaging. For those who enjoy pictorial writing, this is a superb choice.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2004

    Man, only if you are bored!!!

    This is an extreamly mature book and is terrible difficult to pick up and read. The depth is imaculate!

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    Posted December 14, 2008

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    Posted June 30, 2009

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    Posted September 15, 2011

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    Posted November 2, 2008

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    Posted October 29, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2009

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