Siren: Selected Writingsby Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, David Gilmour, Archibald Colquhoun, David Gilmour (Introduction), Archibald Colquhoun (Translator)
Places of My Infancy, a childhood memory of the Lampedusa palace in Palermo at the turn of the century, and of the great family/i>/i>
Although best known as author of a singular masterpiece, The Leopard, the Prince of Lampedusa left a rich and varied oeuvre that repays a careful reading. The best and most representative of it is collected in this volume.
Places of My Infancy, a childhood memory of the Lampedusa palace in Palermo at the turn of the century, and of the great family mansion inland at Santa Margherita, provides a fascinating background to the princely setting of The Leopard. The text hitherto published had been edited and pruned by the author's widow, and resulted in a somewhat impoverished version. Here the author's original text -- with many characters and incidents earlier suppressed -- has been fully restored. The story of The Professor and the Siren, a delicious example of Lampedusa's fantasy, and The Blind Kittens (the first chapter of an unfinished novel of bourgeois Sicily that would have formed a pendant to The Leopard) both featured as appendices to Harvill's earlier edition of the great novel. They are included here together with a charming, comic, bitter-sweet story, Joy and the Law.
Giuseppe di Lampedusa's knowledge of English literature, which derived from a lifetime's reading as well as from a number of extended visits to Britain as a young man, bore fruit in a series of informal seminars he gave in his later years at Palermo. The plan was to introduce his listeners to English writers from Bede to Aldous Huxley, pausing along the way not only at the great classics but also among the lesser known Restoration poets and Victorian novelists. To this, as also in his shrewd and dynamic appraisal of the French novelist Stendhal, he brought the lucid intellect and warmth of feeling that informs his own deeply Sicilian creative genius.
These writings are introduced and set in context by David Gilmour, author of the seminal biography of Lampedusa, The Last Leopard.
This volume is exciting for the insight it provides into the evolution of that masterpiece through the original text of a previously abridged memoir, "Places of My Infancy." The collection also includes "The Professor and the Siren," an enchantingly sensual, fablelike story, and two other short stories, "Joy and the Law" and "The Blind Kittens" (the latter is the remaining fragment of an unfinished novel). The memoir evokes the author's Sicilian childhood and home, which he loved with "utter abandon" until that life vanished with the Risorgimento. Di Lampedusa reminisces about the the palace-size 18th-century house ("a self-sufficient entity . . . a kind of Vatican as it were") and about the garden, "brim full of surprises." By contrast, "Joy and the Law" is a tale that chronicles morality and honor, set against the corruption that then dominated Sicily. The story also hints, in its style, at di Lampedusa's admiration for Dickensian narrative. The collection's centerpiece, however, is a sampling of his short essays (appearing in English for the first time) about his favorite literary icons, including Austen, Stendhal, and Shakespeare, written as notes to lectures he intended for a small group of students. These essays are intuitive and highly anecdotal, yet thoroughly informed. Literature was di Lampedusa's consolation, as his wife observed, for any moment "when he saw something disagreeable." He might, indeed, as translator Gilmour comments, have "sacrificed ten years of his life . . . for the privilege of meeting Sir John Falstaff."
This gem of a volume offers delightful glimpses of a writer worthy of attention well beyond the university circles that have until now adulated him.
- Random House Adult Trade Publishing Group
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