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Introduced by E J Hampson, University of Bath on 18 March 1997
Mr Hampson gave a talk on the Sicilian writer Guiseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (1896 - 1957) whose
posthumous novel The Leopard ( Il Gattopardo) was published in English in 1960 and has remained one of
the best known Italian novels in this country. He traced the author's aristocratic upbringing in the once
elegant city of Palermo and discussed how the ruin of his family and his curious love-hate relationship with
his island influenced the tragic and polemical vision of Sicily contained in the novel. The Leopard's sombre
vision of history and human existence, however, is enlivened by an ironical and sensual style which
wonderfully captures the spirit of the island, an enigmatic and almost metahistorical world which the forces
of history are, nevertheless, imperceptibly transforming. In the figure of the protagonist Fabrizio Corbera,
the Prince of Salina, Lampedusa has created a complex character who embodies many of the author's own
anxieties and contradictions, a man emotionally rooted in his native Sicily but intellectually open to
developments on the wider European stage.
In the discussion, the audience took up some of the European' aspects of the novel and observed
that it was not only English and French novelists who had inspired Lampedusa's work but also the central
European modern novelists, in particular Thomas Mann and Robert Musil.
The talk was accompanied by clips from Luchino Visconti's 1963 film adaptation, a work remarkably
faithful to the spirit of the original novel. E J Hampson.