THE LAST LEOPARD by David Gilmour


A Life of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
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 The first official biography of Giuseppe Tomasi, prince of Lampedusa and author of The Leopard, recounted by British journalist (and family friend) Gilmour with an elegance and precision worthy of his subject. When The Leopard was published in 1958 to great acclaim, Lampedusa was already one year dead and entirely unknown as a writer. Intensely shy and self-contained, he did not even begin writing until late in life and left the world no picture of himself save that contained in his portrait of Don Fabrizio, the doomed aristocrat of his novel, whose declining fortunes mirrored that of the Lampedusa family. The last scion of a long line of Sicilian nobility, Lampedusa grew up in a world that had little use--and no role--for him, and he found his only refuge from the tedium of daily life in literature: A voracious reader, he was capable of working his way through entire novels at a single sitting. Ill at ease among intellectuals, Lampedusa made little use of his literary interests until--well into middle age--he began to give informal lectures on English poetry and prose to a small circle of friends. Gradually he formed the notion of writing a novel that would ``preserve'' the nearly vanished world of Sicily's ancien rÇgime, much as the works of Dickens had captured 19th-century London. With marvelous insight and clarity (aided by an unimpeded access to Lampedusa's notes and papers), Gilmour traces the process by which the aging prince came to an understanding of his own history and managed to transform what he himself saw as ``a largely wasted life'' into one of the most controversial and admired novels of the century. A fascinating chronicle: Gilmour writes with the assurance of a seasoned scholar and the ease of a born storyteller.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-679-40183-0
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1991


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