Are you looking to get through the doldrums of winter by reading a masterwork of Italian literature? Love Italian history? Then I suggest you allocate a comfortable corner in your coziest room for “The Leopard” (Il Gattopardo) by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. You'll be in for a very absorbing ride through the Unification of Italy and its aftermath. Every once in a while you’ll take a sip of wine to accompany the rich scenes in Palermo and the Sicilian countryside.
The 1958 all-time best-selling novel in Italy, “The Leopard” was rejected twice by publishers before finally being accepted. The first copies hit the bookstands only after the author had died. Once on the shelves, the novel received wide acclaim for its rich language that brings to life key historical moments in the birth of modern Italy, many of them in Sicily, the basic setting of the story. Its fictional characters move and interact with historical figures in altogether convincing ways: the Prince, Maria Stella, Tancredi, and Don Calogero, among others. What’s more, the 336-page paperback English translation by Archibald Colquhoun is well-regarded.
If you're rushed for time, perhaps you'd like to see the film adaptation of the work. Burt Lancaster portrays the protagonist, the Prince of Salina, in the 1963 Luchino Visconti production. Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale play major roles. Academy award-winning director Martin Scorsese regards “The Leopard” as one of the greatest films ever made.
It was just a few weeks ago that Pope Francis used the word "gattopardism" to draw the attention of the Roman Curia to a developing problem within its ranks. The term comes directly from a scene in “The Leopard” where it defines a kind of ploy: things must change in appearance in order that everything remains essentially the same. An ancient landowning class faces extinction in the newly united Italy. How will it survive using this tactic? Treat yourself to a novel that has captured the love of the world’s reading public. Try “The Leopard.”