In the last few months I have been reading in the works of the great European Aristocrats of 20th century literature. Among writers like Stefan Zweig, Gregor Von Rozzi, Joseph Roth, Marcel Proust, and his fellow Italian, Curzio Malaparte must be counted Giuseppe Lampedusa, author of The Leopord. I was recently very kindly given The Professor and the Siren by The New York Review of Books, a collection of three short works of fiction by Lampedusa, translated by Stephen Twilley, to be published later this year. One of the selections, "Joy and the Law" was less than ten pages long so I decided I should make that my first Lampodusa experience.
"Joy and the Law" opens on a bus with a clerk in a law office on the way home from work. He has just gotten his annual Christmas bonus. Lampedusa does a masterful job of letting us feel the difficult struggle to live that the clerk and his wife have. This bonus, pretty substantial for him, will pay his past due rent and allow his wife to settle a lot of market bills. I really liked the description of the apartment building in which they live. You can feel the quiet desperation. His boss is a haughty former fascist official. Though either merit or an act of pity, he won an award as best employee of the year, a giant cake. He and his wife get in a fight over what to do with the cake. He wants the family to enjoy it on Christmas Day, she says he must give it to an attorney who sometimes hires him for extra work. There is some funny and telling family drama over the cake.
"Joy and the Law" for sure left me wanting to read more Lampodusa. I will start with the two forty or so page works in this collection and the hopefully get to his master work, The Leopard. Please share your experience with the author with us.