Monday, 4 August 2014

The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa

NUNC et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

I thought this was translated? So why is the first sentence in another language, and a dead language at that?

Next line:

The daily recital of the Rosary was over. 

The only thing better about this line than the first is that I understand it.

For half an hour the steady voice of the Prince had recalled the Glorious and the Sorrowful Mysteries; for half an hour other voices had interwoven a lilting hum from which, now and again, would chime some unlikely word: love, virginity, death; and during that hum the whole aspect of the rococo drawing room seemed to change; even the parrots spreading iridescent wings over the silken walls appeared abashed; even the Magdalen between the two windows looked a penitent and not just a handsome blonde lost in some dubious daydream, as she usually was.

This reads as if it had been written a hundred years ago, as the descriptive element reminds me of Manzoni, but this was published in 1958 posthumously after some rejection - the same year as Murray Leinster's War with the Gizmos. So not a bad year.

After reading this opening, I can understand why some readers might find it hard to keep reading. Their loss, one must assume. Although this novel was written as a means of combating depression, which does not bode well, it is this that actually makes me want to read on more than anything in the opening pages. Description rarely hooks, no matter how wonderfully written it is. However, there is some suggestion of conflict with the words: love, virginity, death. 

First thing said:

"Those swine stink even when they’re dead."

The opening dialogue looks promising and indicates a master writer at work. It reveals character, an internal attitude, and some conflict in the form of dead bodies. Nevertheless, the droning on of opening narrative text is for insomniacs, not me.

This is part of the series: the top 100 novels from Daniel S. Burt's book called Novel 100, the top 100 novels of all time. There is debate of course as to what should be on that list, but his opinions are as good as any. The Leopard comes in at the 93rd greatest novel of all time.

Verdict: Fail

Theodore Moracht

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