Photo of Villa Romana del Casale by Neil Weightman used under a Creative Commons license.
Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, The Leopard (Everyman’s Library, 1991).
Set in the 1860s, this is the story of Don Fabrizio, Prince of Salina, with a long lineage of Sicilian aristocrats. The backdrop is the Risorgimento, the advent of a unified, democraticized Italy, a shift that threatens the Prince’s way of life. Poignant and elegant, The Leopard describes Sicilian life and society, painting portraits Don Fabrizio and those around him. A chronicle of historical change, and an elegy for old ways. Di Lampedusa spent years writing this, his only novel, only to see it rejected by publishers during his life. It was published in 1958, a year after his death, and has become a classic. (N.B. – There are different editions of this book, and I cannot recommend one over another. I gather they all use the same translation.)
In The Guardian (UK), Jonathan Jones writes:
“Lampedusa’s book has become a morbidly seductive guidebook to the island, its glamour and despair; the sensual revelling in decrepit palaces, burnt landscapes studded with temples, sugary pasticceria (Lampedusa spent a lot of time in cake shops) and the magnificent ball in a gilded Palermo salon that is so gloriously visualised in Visconti’s just re-released 1963 film of the book, make you breathe Sicily.”
Here is a bio of Di Lampedusa. Random House offers this excerpt. Wendy Lesser wrote about The Leopard recently in Bookforum. Others writing about it include Nick Owchar (in the LA Times), David B. Kenner, William D. Reeves, dovegreyreader, Jules Roskams, Bhupinder Singh, Welshcakes Limoncello, and Tom.