The Leopard: A Novel

The Leopard: A Novel

by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307833990
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/02/2013
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 114,873
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

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

Read an Excerpt

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.
 
The divinities 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.

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The Leopard 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 35 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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....
Guest More than 1 year ago
i would like a book review about ten to fifteen pages, about the political aspects of the book by lampedusa, the leopard.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
shanemichael on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I would like to spend a couple weeks as the Prince's guest in the Donafugatta Palace - or hell, any of his other villas - I don't care! Although his way of life was ending, I'd like to have been in on it before the last gasp. It sounded very leisurely and attractive.It put me in mind of Chekhov. The end of an era and so on. I thought Lampedusa's narrative voice somewhat wrenching and intrusive at times with his unexpected and out of sync tidbits of information about how things present in the 1860's narrative were to change or be affected in the 20th century. An unusual and disruptive authorial decision. But a very enjoyable, and informative experience about the Risorgimento and Garibaldi episode in Sicilian history.
mtt1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I doubt the English translation by Archibald Colquhoun could be beaten.This book is a little difficult to get into at first, but don't give up, it's worth the effort. By the end I was almost regretting the passing of each paragraph.The language has poetry, humour and is touchingly human. And I felt sorry to let go of Fabrizio, someone I felt quite close to by the end.Probably the other book which most closely left me feeling the way I did at the end of this one was The Tree of Man by Patrick White (though if you haven't read both it's probably too difficult for me to explain why).
Abi78 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Classic novel about an Italy in a state of great change. It follows the prince of Salina and his family as their comfortable and seemingly timeless existence is eroded away by the emerging modern state. Beautifully written, this is quite simply one of the best boks I have read and I will never tire of re-reading it.
jwhenderson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the best historical novels that I have ever read (and reread). It tells an epic family story in beautiful prose. Lampedusa never strikes a wrong note and creates, in the patriarch of the family, Don Fabrizio the Sicilian prince, one of the great tragic figures in literature. The novel successfully depicts the end of his world and the beginning of modern Italy.
kambrogi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book weaves together two stories: the historical events surrounding the unification of Italy in the 19th century, and the simultaneous decline of the aristocracy as it was then known in Sicily. The story is told brilliantly, most often through the eyes of the middle-aged patriarch of the house of Salina. A thoughtful man, Fabrizio Salina ¿ the ¿leopard¿ of the tale -- stands often at a distance, watching the decline of his way of life as he observes his own life beginning its downhill run. This book is nearly perfect: the descriptions of people, homes, landscapes and events bring them into sharp focus against a background of deeper insight into history and life itself, as only an older person might perceive them through the wisdom and cynicism of age. Lampedusa, a Sicilian aristocrat of a dying breed himself, was nearing 60 when he wrote this, his only book. Would that he had lived to write more.
tracyfox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Leopard is a lush series of vignettes set at the birth of a united Italy beginning in the 1860s. Its author, Guiseppe di Lampedusa, is the great grandson of Sicilian Prince Don Fabrizio, also know as "The Leopard" and the main character of the novel.The novel captures the slow, sensual, sun-baked world of Sicily as characters maneuver to find love and happiness and preserve their way of life. Things move slowly and people change only reluctantly, understanding that "things must change in order to stay the same." The author uses the story to help readers place the Sicilian worldview in the context of the landscape and its history. The prince languidly discusses the coming political changes as the story moves forward. He confides his antipathy toward change to his ambitious nephew. He listens to the reasoned emotions of his faithful retainer who prefers royal generosity. He sees the opportunity for characters like the greedy mayor of the small town where his estates are located. His final decision on where to secure his place in the new regime gives the reader some insights into the politics of another time and culture.In structuring the book, the author makes interesting choices about how to organize the chronological progression of events and what to include and exclude. For me the book started slowly but built in intensity and ended with a satisfying but unconventional resolution.
Joycepa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set primarily in 1860 the year of Garibaldi's March of 1000 on Sicily to liberate it from the Bourbon Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and of the plebiscite for the unification of Italy under the House of Savoy, and 1861, The Leopard is ostensibly the story of Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina, whose coat of arms contains the leopard of the title. Superficially, it is a "novel of manners", since a good part of the book is a detailed description of the life of the Sicilian nobility at this time--the vapidness of the upper classes, their courtships, their prejudices, their obsession with correct behavior and status. But it is far more than that. Don Fabrizio who in many ways is a typical Sicilian nobleman in his attitude towards land and money, towards tradition and the rising bourgeoisie, is also an anomaly. He is a physically imposing man, vital, full of energy, with physical characteristics that mark him as more leonine than leopard. He is a scientist, an astronomer, who has his own observatory and delights in spending hours tracking comets, observing the planets and stars and calculating of orbits. He, far more than others of his class, intuitively sees what the Risorgimento and the new, northern government will change--and what will NOT happen. He has an instinct for Sicily itself and knows that external forces can not possibly counteract the land itself:"I've explained myself badly; I said Sicilians, I should have added Sicily, the atmosphere. the climate, the landscape of Sicily. those are the forces which have formed our minds together with and perhaps more than the foreign dominations and ill-assorted rapes; this landscape which knows no mean between sensuous slackness and hellish drought; which is never petty, never ordinary, never relaxed, as a country made for rational beings to live in should be..."Yet despite the resistance of the land and the people, change is coming to the nobility, and Don Fabrizio sees it clearly. His nephew Tancredi is heir to a famous estate, but is penniless, thanks to recklessness on the part of his immediate ancestors. Tancredi conveniently falls in love with Angelica, daughter of the wealthy merchant and now landlord, Don Calogero Saldara. The petit bourgouisie at its worst--scenes at the Salina castle and at a Christmas party given by another noble family make it clear that there is an abyss between the two classes that money itself will never bridge. The House of Salina is old, very old; the house of Soldara will never cover the distance in time and experience.Yet, Don Fabrizio sees that even the nobility will become degraded. As he is dying, he looks at his grandson Fabrizietto"...with his good-time instincts, with his tendency to middle-lass chic. It was useless to try to avoid the thought, but the last of the Salinas was really himself, this gaunt giant now dying on a hotel balcony. for the significance of a noble family lies entirely in its traditions, that is in its vital memories; and he was the last to have any unusual memories andy different from those of other families. Fabrizietto would only have banal ones like his schoolfellows, of snacks, of spiteful jokes against teachers, horses bought with an eye more to price than to quality; and the meaning of his name would change more and more to empty pomp embittered by the gadfly thought that others could do him in outward show."At first the end seems to be superfluous, anticlimactic. The Prince has died over 20 years before. But it is only in the final paragraphs that the reign of The Leopard comes to an end.The writing in this book is incredibly powerful. There are scenes that amaze in their evocative description, such as the one towards the end of a ball depicting the family as the party comes to an end. There is nearly an entire chapter that describes the way Tancredi and Angelica spend hours each day alone exploring the Salina castle--dusty rooms, forgotten suites--with the rising sexual tension between the
albertgoldfain on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the author's only works of fiction, and surely somewhat autobiographical. I knew very little about the Risorgimento and the birth of Italy, so this gives good context to some of the statues of Garibaldi and Vittorio Emanuele. Unfortunately, it is very character driven and, since not all of the characters are essential to the plot, it drags somewhat.
nkmunn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
great to read aloud with a friend
neurodrew on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The LeopardGiuseppe Tomasi de LampedusaFriday, April 13, 2012 8:10 PMPerhaps autobiographical, this novel describes the decline of a noble family in Sicily in the era of Garibaldi. The leopard is part of the coat of arms of the Salina family, and the action mainly centers on the Prince, Don Fabrizio, the patriarch, about age 50 when first described. He is introspective, loves quiet and astronomy, but is wise in the way of aristocrats, and in the needs of his family. He also has many affairs, and with irony and amusement watches the manipulations in love affairs of his nephew, Tancredi, even though Tancredi breaks his daughter¿s heart. His confessor and priest is a serious commentator on the lives of the Salinas. The descriptions of the customs and countryside of Sicily, are rich; the introduction states that more can be learned about Sicily from this novel than from most histories. The book was written by a Scilian aristocrat in the last years of his life, about 1955. It is funny in parts, and in the end sad, although the last chapter is an afterthought, and occasionally there is an anachronistic comment in the text. ¿¿he had found himself comparing this ghastly journey with his own life, which had first moved over smiling level ground, then clambered up rocky mountains, slid over threatening passes, to emerge eventually into a landscape of interminable undulations, all the same color, all bare as despair. These early morning fantasies were the very worst that could happen to a man of middle age; and although the Prince knew that they would vanish with the day¿s activities he suffered acutely all the same, as he was used enough to them by now to realise that deep inside of him they left a sediment of sorrow which, accumulating day by day, would in the end be the real cause of his death¿¿A man of forty-five can consider himself still young till the moment comes when he has children old enough to fall in love. The Prince felt old age come over him all in one blow; he forgot the huge distances still tramped out shooting, the Gesumaria he could still evoke from his wife, his freshness now at the end of a long and arduous journey.¿ ¿Of course, love. Flames for a year, ashes for thirty¿¿Don Fabrizio had always liked Don Ciccio, partly because of the compassion inspired in him by all who from youth had thought of themselves as dedicated to the Arts, and in old age, realising they had no talent, still carried on the same activity at lower levels, pocketing withered dreams, and he was also touched by the dignity of his poverty.¿¿Nothing could be decently hated except eternity¿
lauralkeet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Leopard is a rich and descriptive novel about a Sicilian prince in the 1860s, an age when aristocracy and the upper classes were in decline. Published posthumously, the author was himself a prince. This book distills Lampedusa's life experiences and associated wisdom into a short 210 pages. The novel is primarily a character study, full of eloquent language and imagery. The figure of Don Fabrizio, the patriarchal prince, looms large: "As he crossed the two rooms preceding the study he tried to imagine himself as an imposing leopard with smooth scented skin preparing to tear a timid jackal to pieces ... it was an irritated Leopard that entered the study." (p. 105) He commands attention in the evenings as he reads "out to his family a modern novel in instalments, exuding dignified benevolence from every pore." (p. 119). And yet he struggles with his decline in local society where, "no longer the major landowner in Donnafugata, ... now found himself forced to receive, when in afternoon dress himself, a guest appearing in evening clothes." (p. 73) Each chapter of the novel is lush and descriptive, painting a picture of the local village, a summer home, and (my personal favorite), a ball: "Evoked, created almost by the approving words and still more approving thoughts, the Colonel now appeared at the top of the stairs. He was moving amid a tinkle of epaulettes, chains and spurs in his well-padded, double-breasted uniform, a plumed hat under his arm and his left wrist propped on a curved sabre. He was a man of the world with graceful manners, well-versed, as all Europe knew by now, in hand-kissings dense with meaning; every lady whose fingers were brushed by his perfumed moustaches that night was able to re-evolke from first-hand knowledge the historical incident so highly praised in the popular press. .... Above the ordered swirl of her pink crinoline Angelica's white shoulders merged into strong soft arms; her head looked small and proud on its smooth youthful neck adorned with intentionally modest pearls. And when from the opening of her long kid glove she drew a hand which though not small was perfectly shaped, on it was seen glittering the Neapolitan sapphire." (p.168-169). It is during this very ball that Fabrizio begins to loathe the very society that has made him a rich and powerful man. The novel's remaining chapters leap across the decades, portraying Fabrizio's decline and his legacy.Since the best part of this book is its very language, it is best read in a quiet nook, and when time allows it to be savored. If conditions are right, the reader will be rewarded.
Cecilturtle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Read for the LT Group Read, I don't think I would have found out about it otherwise! It was a lovely Italian history lesson with colorful, endearing characters and great insights into human behavior. There were some lengthy passages about the war which I felt could have been handled in more dynamic way and the ending was rather disjointed, but overall some wonderful images and descriptions of great originality.
kidzdoc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a disappointing and tedious novel about a powerful Sicilian family during the last days of the Risorgimento, when the unification of the states and kingdoms of present day Italy took place. None of the characters, including the main one, Don Fabrizio, held my interest for long, and the book was filled with petty squabbles, men who lusted after everyone except their own spouses, and innumerable class and power struggles. I may not have been in the proper frame of mind to fully appreciate it, but I doubt that I'll give it a second chance.
Oregonreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Leopard is set in Sicily in the 1860's, around the time a united Italy was formed. The plot involves events in the lives of Fabrizio, Prince of Salina, and his family, set against a backdrop of revolution and the collapse of the old aristocracy. I read this in translation so my comments reflect that rather than the original Italian but the language is breathtaking. When Fabrizio walks into a room in the palace, the reader follows his eyes as they take in every detail and hear his reflections on the history of the objects there. There is such a strong sense of place. I was fascinated with his description of the Sicilian character. When a representative of the new national government asks him to join the Senate, describing all the improvements that will be coming to Sicily, Fabrizio declines, explaining that Sicilians don't want improvements. "They are coming to teach us good manners...But they won't succeed because we think we are gods." The story of his family is simple: love, marriage, jealousy, death, all seen through the old man's eyes and filtered through his understanding of the collapse around him. This is a marvelous book.
WilfGehlen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Don Fabrizio / abed with Princess Stella / Gesummaria!The The Leopard is structured not so much as a novel but as a still life. Lampedusa describes each scene with the eye of an accountant: there, in Concetta's room, a high bed with four pillows, a money chest with dozens of drawers, portraits, watercolors, sacred images on the wall, four enormous wooden cases containing dozens of shirts, sheets of best and second-best quality. The Sicilians who inhabit these scenes are, but they do not. Life happens around them, they, like a dog sleeping in the shade cast by a blazing Sicilian sun.It is as though Lampedusa had discovered a vintage room in a museum, or in an ancestor's house, reporting its image in excruciating detail, meanwhile investing it with a population of his imagination. The setting is Garibaldi's Sicilian campaign and its aftermath, but it really doesn't matter--nothing changes for Don Fabrizio or his family. The Don sees in himself the end of the line of Leopards but that has little to do with external forces and everything to do with the diminished capacity of the next generation. He positions himself well with the new regime, he maintains his estates and his prestige (both somewhat reduced). He does not have to partition his almond grove, like the Pirrones, or part with his cherry orchard, like Chekhov's Ranevsky. There is a new day dawning in Sicily, but it is no different than yesterday.The unifying character throughout The Leopard is Bendico, the Great Dane, who appears on the first page and is finally well disposed on the last page. His arc has a 45-year denouement, well befitting the Sicilian life. Like a dog. Indeed.
gwendolyndawson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set in the 1860s, The Leopard tells the spellbinding story of a decadent, dying Sicilian aristocracy threatened by the approaching forces of democracy and revolution. The dramatic sweep and richness of observation, the seamless intertwining of public and private worlds, and the grasp of human frailty imbue The Leopard with its particular melancholy beauty and power. At times the prose seemed stilted, but overall this was very enjoyable and beautifully written
mariamarthe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very rich book, in every sense of the word. the author evokes time and place with masterful strokes, and the book lingers in the mind like a strong perfume.
bikram on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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Pretty hard to understand..
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