The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa

The Leopard was first published posthumously in 1958 in Italian as ‘Il Gattopardo’.

In Sicily in 1860, as Italian unification grows inevitable, the smallest of gestures seems dense with meaning and melancholy, sensual agitation and disquiet: ‘Some huge irrational disaster is in the making.’ All around him, the prince, Don Fabrizio, witnesses the ruin of the class and inheritance that already disgust him.

His favourite nephew, Tancredi, proffers the paradox, ‘If we want things to stay as they are, they will have to change’, but Prince Don Fabrizio prefers to take refuge in scepticism and astronomy, ‘the sublime routine of the skies.’

Giuseppe di Lampedusa (, also an astronomer and a Sicilian prince, was 58 when he started to write The Leopard, though he had had it in his mind for 25 years. E. M. Forster called his work ‘one of the great lonely books’. What renders it so beautiful and so discomfiting is its creator’s grasp of human frailty and, equally, of Sicily’s arid terrain –‘comfortless and irrational, with no lines that the mind could grasp, conceived apparently in a delirious moment of creation; a sea suddenly petrified at the instant when a change of wind had flung waves into frenzy’.

The author died at the age of 60, soon after finishing the novel, though he did live long enough to see it rejected as ‘unpublishable’. This classic is the spellbinding story of a decadent, dying Sicilian aristocracy threatened by the approaching forces of democracy and revolution.

Brought to the screen in 1963 by Luchino Visconti ( Burt Lancaster plays Prince Don Fabrizio Salina. Claudia Cardinale plays Angelica Sedara.

Available on DVD (

Giuseppe di Lampedusa

272 pages in the Vintage Classics paperback edition.

ISBN 978-0099512158

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