Tomasi di Lampedusa

Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

Giuseppe Tomasi, 11th Prince of Lampedusa (December 23, 1896 – July 23, 1957), was a Sicilian writer. He is most famous for his only novel, Il Gattopardo (first published posthumously in 1958, translated as The Leopard) which is set in Sicily during the Risorgimento. A taciturn and solitary man, he passed a great deal of his time reading and meditating, and used to say of himself, "I was a boy who liked solitude, who preferred the company of things to that of people."

Biography Edit

Youth Edit

Tomasi was born in Palermo to Giulio Maria Tomasi, Prince of Lampedusa and Duke of Palma di Montechiaro, and Beatrice Mastrogiovanni Tasca di Cutò. He became an only child after the death (from diphtheria) of his sister. He was very close to his mother, a strong personality who influenced him a great deal, especially because his father was rather cold and detached. As a child he studied in their grand house in Palermo with a tutor (including the subjects of literature and English), with his mother (who taught him French), and with a grandmother who read him the novels of Emilio Salgari. In the little theater of the house in Santa Margherita di Belice, where he spent long vacations, he first saw a performance of Hamlet, performed by a company of travelling players. His cousin was Fulco di Verdura.

In the army at Caporetto Edit

Beginning in 1911, he attended the liceo classico in Rome and later in Palermo; he moved definitively to Rome in 1915 and enrolled in the faculty of Jurisprudence; however, that year he was drafted into the army, fought in the lost battle of Caporetto, and was taken prisoner by the Austro-Hungarian Army. He was held in a POW camp in Hungary, but succeeded in escaping and returning to Italy. After being mustered out of the army as a Lieutenant, he returned to Sicily, alternately resting there and travelling with his mother, and continuing his studies of foreign literature. It was during this time that he first drafted in his mind the ideas for his future novel The Leopard. Originally his plan was to have the entire novel occur over the course of one day, similar to the famous modernist novel by James Joyce, Ulysses.

A wife from Latvia Edit

In Riga, Latvia, in 1932, he married Alexandra Wolff von Stomersee, nicknamed "Licy", a Baltic German noblewoman and a student of psychoanalysis. The marriage ceremony was celebrated in an Orthodox Church. They first lived with di Lampedusa's mother in Palermo, but soon the incompatibility between the two women drove Licy back to Latvia.

In 1934 his father died and he inherited his princely title. He was briefly called back to arms in 1940, but, as head of a hereditary agricultural plantation, was soon sent back home to take care of its affairs. He and his mother ultimately took refuge in Capo d'Orlando, where he was reunited with Licy; they survived the war, but their palace in Palermo did not.

After his mother died in 1946, di Lampedusa returned to live with his wife in Palermo. In 1953 he began to spend time with a group of young intellectuals, one of whom was Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, a cousin, with whom he developed such a close relationship that, the following year, he legally adopted him.

The Leopard Edit

File:The Leopard Signet 1960s.jpg

Tomasi di Lampedusa was often the guest of his cousin, the poet Lucio Piccolo, with whom he travelled in 1954 to San Pellegrino Terme to attend a literary awards ceremony, where he met, among others, Eugenio Montale and Maria Bellonci. It is said that it was upon returning from this trip that he commenced writing Il Gattopardo (The Leopard), which was finished in 1956. During his life, the novel was rejected by the two publishers to whom Tomasi submitted it.

In 1957 Tomasi di Lampedusa was diagnosed with lung cancer; he died on July 23 in Rome. Following a requiem in the Basilica del Sacro Cuore di Gesu in Rome, he was buried in the Capuchin cemetery of Palermo. His novel was published the year after his death; Elena Croce had sent it to the writer Giorgio Bassani, who brought it to the attention of the Feltrinelli publishing house. Il Gattopardo was quickly recognized as a great work of contemporary Italian literature. In 1959 Tomasi di Lampedusa was posthumously awarded the prestigious Strega Prize for the novel.

Works Edit

Il Gattopardo follows the family of its title character, Sicilian nobleman Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina, through the events of the Risorgimento. Perhaps the most memorable line in the book is spoken by Don Fabrizio's nephew, Tancredi, urging unsuccessfully that Don Fabrizio abandon his allegiance to the disintegrating Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and to ally himself with Guiseppe Garibaldi and the House of Savoy: "Unless we ourselves take a hand now, they'll foist a republic on us. If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change."[1]

The title is rendered in English as "The Leopard", but the Italian word gattopardo refers to the American ocelot or to the African serval. Il gattopardo may be a reference to a wildcat that was hunted to extinction in Italy in the mid-19th century – just as Don Fabrizio was dryly contemplating the indolence and decline of the Sicilian aristocracy.

The novel was criticized at the time of its first publication by some literary critics for its straightforward "old fashioned" realism, a type of Stendhalian or Tolstoyan realism that particularly irritated neo-realists such as Elio Vittorini and Alberto Moravia. However, the novel was very popular among so-called common readers, as well as with prestigious foreign intellectuals such as Louis Aragon and E. M. Forster. In 1963 Il Gattopardo was made into a film, directed by Luchino Visconti and starring Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale, and which won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Tomasi also wrote some lesser-known works: I racconti (Stories, first published 1961), Le lezioni su Stendhal (Lessons on Stendhal, privately published in 1959, published in book form in 1977), and Invito alle lettere francesi del Cinquecento (Introduction to sixteenth-century French literature, first published 1970). He also wrote "Joy and the Law", a piece of literature frequently studied in high schools today. In 2010, a collection of his letters were published in English as Letters from London and Europe. His perceptive commentaries on English and other foreign literatures make up a greater part of his works by volume than does his fiction.

The main-belt asteroid 14846 Lampedusa is named after him.

References Edit

  1. ^ Memorable quotes for Il Gattopardo, The Internet Movie Database

Sources Edit

Further reading Edit

External links Edit

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Template:Strega Prize

NAME Tomasi Di Lampedusa, Giuseppe
DATE OF BIRTH December 23, 1896
DATE OF DEATH July 23, 1957

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.