Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

A lifelong voracious reader, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (toh-MAH-see dee lahm-pay-DEW-zah) became a writer late in his intellectual career. His first public writings were a series of lectures begun in the fall of 1953 on the development of English and, later, French literature. The audience was a select company of young students, and only one of the lessons has been published to date: the “Lezioni su Stendhal” (lesson on Stendhal), which appeared in the April, 1959, issue of Paragone. This literary discussion offers as much critical insight into Lampedusa as it does into its subject, Stendhal. The amateur critic presents the French novelist as an exemplary narrator whose “thin” style requires the reader’s active participation in deciphering the implicit, as well as the explicit, text. Lampedusa’s ownnarrative style lacks this Stendhalian simplicity and pregnant silence he so admired; The Leopard is a “fat” book, prone to lushness and descriptive delineation. Nevertheless, Lampedusa shared Stendhal’s interpretation of the narrative voice and his concept of realism: Events are presented through the subjective filter of aprotagonist’s perceptions and sensibilities. Lampedusa imitates this Stendhalian procedure somewhat erratically, identifying primarily with his novel’s hero, Don Fabrizio Corbera, prince of Salina. Author and character occasionally merge as the prince becomes an autobiographical mouthpiece.


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(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s only novel appeared posthumously in 1958, having received rejections during the brief period between its completion and the author’s death. Once published, The Leopard exploded onto the Italian literary scene, attaining two or three printings per month in early 1959 and selling a record total of more than one million copies in Italy alone; it also left political, ideological, and literary controversies in its wake. The 1950’s witnessed the growth of the experimental novel and a continuing emphasis on socially committed art. In this context, The Leopard was an anomaly. Its style was reminiscent of the nineteenth century novel; critics viewed it as an anachronistic descendant of such Sicilian realists as Giovanni Verga, Federico De Roberto, and Luigi Pirandello. Politically, its ideology was suspect. Ironically, in a period that mourned the death of the novel as a genre, Lampedusa’s book obtained incredible public approbation and the stature of an international best seller, which further fanned the critical controversies.

Opinions varied immensely on the merit, importance, structure, and significance of the novel. Lampedusa was alternately accused of being an aristocratic reactionary and a subtle opponent of the old guard; some declared him deficient in historical vision, whereas others viewed him as the voice of Italy’s postwar crisis. Aesthetically, the critics were also divided, finding the novel very difficult to categorize and...

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Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

What is Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s attitude toward change?

Discuss the ambivalence that Lampedusa felt toward his native Sicily.

How did the work of Stendhal influence Lampedusa’s writing?

Discuss the relationship between The Leopard and Lampedusa’s other works.

Why was The Leopard rejected by some publishers and attacked by some critics?


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Cowart, David. “The Turning Point.” In History and the Contemporary Novel. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1989. A scholarly treatment.

Gilmour, David. The Last Leopard: A Life of Giuseppe di Lampedusa. New York: Pantheon Books, 1991. A complete biography.

Lansing, Richard. “The Structure of Meaning in Lampedusa’s Il gattopardo,” in PMLA. XCIII (1978), pp. 409-422.

Lucente, Gregory. “Lampedusa’s Il gattopardo: Figure and Temporality in and Historical Novel,” in MLN. XCIII, no. 1 (January, 1978), pp. 82-108.

Manacorda, Giuliano. Storia della letteratura italiana contemporanea: 1940-1965, 1967.

Pacifici, Sergio. “Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa: The View from Within.” In The Modern Italian Novel: From Pea to Moravia. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1979. The Leopard is analyzed in the wider context of Italian literature.

Ragusa, Olga. “Stendhal, Tomasi di Lampedusa and the Novel,” in Comparative Literature Studies. X, no. 3 (September, 1973), pp 195-228.

Salvestroni, Simonetta. Tomasi di Lampedusa, 1973.

Samona, Giuseppe Paolo. Il gattopardo, i racconti, Lampedusa, 1974.