Thursday, May 8, 2008

Il Gattopardo – The Leopard

Il Gattopardo - The Leopard
I just finished this book, started a month ago after returning from Palermo. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Il Gattopardo (translated as "The Leopard” in the English version) was written by the Sicilian Tomasi di Lampedusa about his grandfather, Prince of Lampedusa. The novel was published in 1958. In a nutshell, the book is about the decline of the Italian aristocracy after the Risorgimento – Italy’s unification.

Il Risorgimento was an Italian political and social movement for political unity lasting from 1815 to 1861 which resulted in more or less the modern Italy (minus Rome and Venice, they came a little later). Almost every town honors some heroes of the Risorgimento in their street and piazze names: Garibaldi for Giuseppe Garibaldi, Cavour for Conte di Cavour, Vittorio for Vittorio Emanuele II, Mazzini for Giuseppe Mazzini, XX Settembre, the date of the fall of Rome.

Chapter I starts in 1860 and Chapter VIII ends in 1910. (This is the Vintage 2007 edition.) It’s a lot of time covered yet the story unfolds around a couple of key points in the Prince’s life. You get a good sense of the empty aristocratic life and the Prince’s resistance yet resignation that it was all about to change.

The book was made into a film in 1963 by the famous Italian director Luchino Visconti and featured Burt Lancaster as the Prince, Don Fabrizio. You can view a couple of clips on YouTube. This clip features the famous waltz scene between Don Fabrizio and Angelica (the ambitious girl to marry Tancredi, the Prince’s nephew). This 5 minute clip is the controversial speech by the Prince saying that Sicilians never change, don’t want change (“non vuole cambiare”).

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