Places Discussed

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San Lorenzo

San Lorenzo. Sicilian village in the Piani dei Colli district, between Monte Pellegrino and Monte Castellaccio, north of Palermo where the Villa Salina, home of Don Fabrizio Corbera, prince of Salina, stands. This fictitious residence is based on the actual Villa Lampedusa home of the author—a property that his great-grandfather Guilio Tomasi acquired in the 1840’s. Tomasi also inspired the character Don Fabrizio.

At his observatory from which he studies the stars, Don Fabrizio skeptically contemplates the dawn of the glorious new days that may bring his comfortable aristocratic order to an end. However, whatever changes come, he knows they will occur within a familiar context: One set of rulers will replace another, and the effect on most people will be minimal. His villa, enclosed within its own walls, is a distant, separate world, but one that is nonetheless part of a common landscape that has been punished by a crude, drugging sun that keeps all things in “servile immobility,” annulling every will. The dichotomy between psychological distance and social imperative is fundamental to the book’s themes of decadence and impending decline.


Donnafugata. Village in which the Corbera family country is estate located, three days’ journey by coach from the Villa Salina. The estate’s main residence is a “restless baroque” palace with so many rooms that the prince boasts he has not set foot in all of them. This fictitious little town is patterned after the real Santa Margherita di Bèlice, which lies in the northwestern corner of Agrigento province, called in the book by its original name of Girgenti.

An absentee landowner and city dweller by choice, Don Fabrizio likes to stay here three months each year. He has a proud sense of feudal ownership that goes beyond the fact that ownership of this and other agrarian properties, thousands of hectares in all, that are the main source of his family’s wealth. Donnafugata holds for him the prized memories of an “everlasting childhood” and produces a sense of “serene confidence,” which he finds important in the current trying and unpredictable times. However, the safeness of his haven proves deceptive. Don Lorenzo eventually confronts problems that will bring about changes in himself, generated in part by a decline in his own prestige. He realizes that, despite the outward steadfastness of his physical surrounding, the old truths and old social verities are being eroded and that he is no longer able to sweep away difficulties with a wave of his hand.

Convent of the Holy Spirit

Convent of the Holy Spirit. Religious retreat that Prince Fabrizio and his family visit in order to pray at the tomb of Blessed Corbera, a revered ancestor and founder of the establishment. They follow a centuries-old family tradition, but Don Fabrizio particularly enjoys the visit because of the deference he is paid. He and the king of Naples are the only men allowed to enter the convent itself. In fact, everything about the place pleases him, from the humble simplicity of its parlor, to a little wooden wheel used for passing messages, to the macaroons nuns bake for visitors.


*Palermo. Sicily’s capital city is not one of happy memories for Don Fabrizio. There, at great ball at the Palazzo Pontelone in 1862, he senses his extreme isolation from the society that once nurtured him and broods on his own mortality. He is pessimistic about the future, feels out of place, and philosophizes that when he dies, so will the whole world. When his death finally does come nineteen years later, it does not occur among magnificent surroundings. He is at the...

(This entire section contains 753 words.)

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less-than-luxurious Hotel Trinacria to which he has been taken because he is too ill to return to his villa and because his virtually deserted Palermo town house does not contain any beds. In alien, strange surroundings he looks back on his life and realizes that he has only truly lived for two, perhaps three, of his seventy-three years.


*Sicily. Italian island, off the southern tip of the Italian peninsula, that is closer to Africa than it is to northern Italy. Its location has a profound psychological effect on its inhabitants. This Sicily which aridly, comfortlessly, and irrationally undulates to the horizon “with no lines the mind could grasp,” produces in Sicilians a longing for sleep and an attraction for things past only because they are dead. Don Fabrizio clearly believes that such a morose attitude is not mere rationalization, but reasons for his own spirit of resignation.


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Butcher, Danny. Review of The Leopard, by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. The Chicago Sunday Tribune, May 1, 1960, p. 1. A sensitive review, humanistic in scope, focusing on characters and scene instead of careful literary analysis.

Forster, E. M. Review of The Leopard, by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. The Spectator, May 13, 1960, p. 702. A review by one of the masters of twentieth century fiction. Forster considers the Archibal Colquohon translation of the novel, and, like other critics, finds the translation somewhat lacking.

Hollander, John. “Plain and Fancy: Notes on Four Novels.” The Yale Review 50, no. 1 (September, 1960): 149-156. Calls attention to The Leopard’s stature as a Bildungsroman, a poetic novel similar to the work of Jean Giraudoux, and a monument of European literature.

Pritchett, V. S. “A Sicilian Novel.” The New Statesman 59, no. 1522 (May 14, 1960): 721-722. High praise of Lampedusa’s lyricism; contrasts the obvious similarity with Stendhal, noting that Lampedusa’s style lacks the coldness of the French writer.

Slonim, Marc. Review of The Leopard, by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. The New York Times Book Review, May 1, 1960, 1, p. 24. Places The Leopard in its historical and literary context, and deals with some of the novel’s primary symbols.


Critical Essays