Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Last Leopard A Life of Giuseppe Tomasi dí Lampedosa by David Gilmour (1988)

I offer my great thanks to Max u for the Amazon Gift Card that allowed me to read this book

Giuseppe Tomasi dí Lampedosa (1896 to 1957, Sicily) is the author of what many consider the greatest of all Italian novels, The Leopard.  Set in Sicily in the 19th century, it focuses on a nobleman who see his way of life being destroyed by social changes, historical forces he cannot control.  It focuses on the decline of a decadent aristocracy.  

I am very fond of biographies of authors and this is up there with the best of them.  Lampedosa was a minor nobleman from a family of ancient lineage.  For generations the Lampedosa's lived upon the rents from their properties.  Gilmour does a marvelous job of letting us see how the family background shaped the mind set of Lampedoda.  I don't quite know how to talk about this book but I loved it, especially the extensive details given about the reading life of Lampedosa, who loved nothing more than reading.   He treasured physical books, he kept a copy of his favorite book, The Pickwick Papers by his bed and carried an edition of Shakespeare with him when ever he traveled.  He loved being in his library above all.  Lampedosa was an inward directed man.  He married a Ukrainian psychoanalysis with  whom he had a sometimes long distance relationship.  He was a man of very deep culture, erudition and historically very learned. Gilmour says he looked like and acted like an old man by the time he was fifty, perhaps weighed down the decline of his beloved Sicily.  After World War Two Lampedosa felt obligated to help with the post war rebuilding of the island and took an administrative job with the Italian Red Cross.  He soon became Red Cross director for Sicily and was subsequently asked to resign when too many complaints were raised about how things were going.  I got the feeling it was not really Lampedosa's fault, it was just not a job for him.  A lot of space is devoted to the composition of his only novel, The Leopard and his inability to get it published.  After posthumous publication, it went on to become one of the bestselling and highest regarded Italian novels of all time.

David Gilmour’s books include award-winning biographies of Rudyard Kipling and Lord Curzon. He is also the author of The Ruling Caste: Imperial Lives in the Victorian Raj and of several books on Spain and the Middle East. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a former Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford, he is a contributor to the Spectator and the New York Review of Books. He is currently writing a book on Giuseppe Verdi and the unification of Italy. The Last Leopard won the Marsh Biography Award in 1989.

I would certainly want to read more by Gilmour.  

I will reread The Leopard soon and will be helped by the insights of Gilmour.

Mel u

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