This book is splendidly written and immensely thought provoking. I am looking forward to watching the movie starring Burt Lancaster.
The final chapter in this small, delightful book is titled "Relics" and in a way the entire book is a glorious relic, a reminiscence, a daydream of a long gone era and the sort of people who lived in that time and place. I first read it many years ago and revisiting it now brought to mind Robert Browning's poem "My Last Duchess"; Browning's poem was not really about the painting itself or the Duchess but about the owner of the painting, who in discussing the Duchess reveals so much about himself and the ethos of his class and the culture in which he lived.
The setting is the Italian Risorgimento in the 1860s when Sicily and much of Europe was going through gigantic changes; the world as the old nobility had always known it was disappearing before their eyes. There is nostalgia, resignation, but remarkably little sorrow. Tomasi immerses himself and the reader in the day-to-day realities as experienced by noble and peasant alike, while Garibaldi and the revolutionary upheaval remain loud but distant music, a constant reminder that all of this will soon pass away. It's a remarkable book, both in terms of its elegance and charm and in the fact that it was ever written at all by someone of Tomasi's class. He never envisioned the novel being published and that may have been a factor in making it so graceful and unpretentious.
Could not develop any empathy for the characters or interest in the plot. Did not finish the book despite great reviews.
Italy had no authentic claim to aristocracy, every country it settles in it abandons for their neighbor or leaves broke indicative of Sicilian opulence.
The author's only novel, published after his death, it is a literary work in its own class. Set against the backdrop of the harsh, beautiful landscape of Sicily in the 1860s, a noble family lives out its last days of prestige. A rising bourgeoisie is set to overtake the nobility, and Lampedusa renders this shift neither with nostalgia nor triumphalism. Perhaps that's the attraction of this novel and its strange staying power. It neither glorifies nor castigates the vanishing nobility; it simply describes their decline in such chiseled, vivid, image-rich prose that a reader can't but be enthralled by the power of imagination.
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