Authors: Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Italian novelist and essayist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Il gattopardo, 1958 (The Leopard, 1960)

Short Fiction:

Racconti, 1961 (partial translation as Two Stories and a Memory, 1962)

Nonfiction:

“Lezioni su Stendhal,” 1959 (in Paragone IX, April)

Miscellaneous:

The Siren, and Selected Writings, 1995

Biography

Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (toh-MAH-see dee lahm-pay-DEW-zah) was born into an aristocratic Sicilian family in 1896. He traveled widely and spent some years in London and Paris, but he lived most of his life in a decaying family palace in Palermo.{$I[AN]9810000008}{$I[A]Tomasi di Lampedusa, Giuseppe}{$S[A]Lampedusa, Giuseppe Tomasi di;Tomasi di Lampedusa, Giuseppe}{$I[geo]ITALY;Tomasi di Lampedusa, Giuseppe}{$I[tim]1896;Tomasi di Lampedusa, Giuseppe}

At his father’s behest, Lampedusa studied law and prepared to enter the diplomatic corps, but his university career was interrupted when he was called up for duty in the Italian army in 1915. He was captured and served time in an Austro-Hungarian prison camp, from which he eventually escaped. In 1932 he married the Latvian psychoanalyst Alexandra Wolff-Stormersee and in 1956 adopted a son, Gioacchino Lanza, who would carry on his title.

Lampedusa wrote a number of essays that demonstrate a profound knowledge of French and English literature, but he published very little during his lifetime; among his papers were found essays on Stendhal, Prosper Mérimée, and Gustave Flaubert. He first appeared on the literary scene in 1954 at a literary congress with his cousin, the Sicilian poet Luigi Piccolo. Years earlier he had expressed the intention of writing a novel based on the life of his great-grandfather, who had been an astronomer and mathematician. In this book he wanted to set the biography of his grandfather among the historical events that had affected his family and the Sicilian people while expressing his own emotions and ideas with regard to himself, his family, and history.

On his return from the congress, at the age of sixty and feeling death to be near, Lampedusa began writing his novel. Finishing it in 1956, he submitted the manuscript to publishers who were, unfortunately, bound to find his view of history pessimistic and reactionary. One letter of rejection from a prominent Italian novelist employed as a publisher’s reader reached Lampedusa as he lay dying of lung cancer.

Another novelist, Giorgio Bassani, received the manuscript of The Leopard from a friend. Amazed that such a book should be written by an unknown writer, Bassani perceived its value immediately and telephoned Palermo to speak to Lampedusa, only to learn that he had died. The Leopard was published the following year, to international acclaim.

BibliographyCowart, 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.
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