Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (December 23, 1896 – July 23, 1957), was a Sicilian
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 writer. He is most famous for his only novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

, Il Gattopardo (first published posthumously in 1958, translated as The Leopard
The Leopard
The Leopard is a novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa that chronicles the changes in Sicilian life and society during the Risorgimento...

) which is set in Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 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."


Tomasi was born in Palermo
Palermo is a city in Southern Italy, the capital of both the autonomous region of Sicily and the Province of Palermo. The city is noted for its history, culture, architecture and gastronomy, playing an important role throughout much of its existence; it is over 2,700 years old...

 to Giulio Maria Tomasi, Prince of Lampedusa
Lampedusa is the largest island of the Italian Pelagie Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The comune of Lampedusa e Linosa is part of the Sicilian province of Agrigento which also includes the smaller islands of Linosa and Lampione. It is the southernmost part of Italy. Tunisia, which is about ...

 and Duke of Palma di Montechiaro
Palma di Montechiaro
Palma di Montechiaro is a town and comune in the province of Agrigento, Sicilia, Italy.Formerly known as Palma, in 1863, Montechiaro was added to the name, in honour of the Chiaramonte family whose stronghold is close to the town.-Main sights:*Mother Church*Castle*Benedictine Monastery*Ducal...

, and Beatrice Mastrogiovanni Tasca di Cutò. He became an only child after the death (from diphtheria
Diphtheria is an upper respiratory tract illness caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae, a facultative anaerobic, Gram-positive bacterium. It is characterized by sore throat, low fever, and an adherent membrane on the tonsils, pharynx, and/or nasal cavity...

) 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
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

), with his mother (who taught him French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

), and with a grandmother who read him the novels of Emilio Salgari
Emilio Salgari
Emilio Salgari was an Italian writer of action adventure swashbucklers and a pioneer of science fiction.For over a century, his novels were mandatory reading for generations of youth eager for exotic adventures. In Italy, his extensive body of work was more widely read than that of Dante. Today...

. In the little theater of the house in Santa Margherita di Belice
Santa Margherita di Belice
Santa Margherita di Belice is a town in the Province of Agrigento in the Italian region of Sicily.It rises in south-west Sicily, 400 metres above sea level, near to where the borders of the Province of Agrigento, Province of Trapani and Province of Palermo meet...

, where he spent long vacations, he first saw a performance of Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

, performed by a company of travelling players. His cousin was Fulco di Verdura
Fulco di Verdura
Fulco di Verdura , or Fulco Santo Stefano della Cerda, Duke of Verdura, and Marquis of Murata la Cerda, was an influential Italian jeweller...


World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...


Beginning in 1911, he attended the liceo classico
Liceo classico
Liceo classico is a secondary school type in Italy. The educational curriculum lasts five years, and students are generally about 14 to 19 years of age....

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
Battle of Caporetto
The Battle of Caporetto , took place from 24 October to 19 November 1917, near the town of Kobarid , on the Austro-Italian front of World War I...

, and was taken prisoner by the Austro-Hungarian Army
Austro-Hungarian Army
The Austro-Hungarian Army was the ground force of the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy from 1867 to 1918. It was composed of three parts: the joint army , the Austrian Landwehr , and the Hungarian Honvédség .In the wake of fighting between the...

. 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
The Leopard
The Leopard is a novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa that chronicles the changes in Sicilian life and society during the Risorgimento...

. 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
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

, Ulysses
Ulysses (novel)
Ulysses is a novel by the Irish author James Joyce. It was first serialised in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920, and then published in its entirety by Sylvia Beach on 2 February 1922, in Paris. One of the most important works of Modernist literature,...


A wife from Latvia

In Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

, Latvia, in 1932, he married Alexandra Wolff von Stomersee
Stameriena Castle
- External links :*...

, nicknamed "Licy", a Baltic German
Baltic German
The Baltic Germans were mostly ethnically German inhabitants of the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, which today form the countries of Estonia and Latvia. The Baltic German population never made up more than 10% of the total. They formed the social, commercial, political and cultural élite in...

 noblewoman and a student of psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis is a psychological theory developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis has expanded, been criticized and developed in different directions, mostly by some of Freud's former students, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav...

. 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
Capo d'Orlando
Capo d'Orlando is a comune in the province of Messina, Sicily, Italy and is considered the capital of comprensorio dei Nebrodi. Well-known as a vivacious, active, touristic and commercial center, Capo d'Orlando is also the birthplace of the poet Lucio Piccolo, cousin of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa...

, 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

Tomasi di Lampedusa was often the guest of his cousin, the poet Lucio Piccolo
Lucio Piccolo
Lucio Piccolo di Calanovella , was an Italian poet.-Biography:Born in Palermo, Lucio Piccolo was first degree cousin to Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, the latter author of The Leopard....

, with whom he travelled in 1954 to San Pellegrino Terme
San Pellegrino Terme
San Pellegrino Terme is a comune in the province of Bergamo, Lombardy, Italy, best known for being the location where San Pellegrino, a carbonated mineral water drink is produced.-Twin towns:*Burgdorf, Switzerland, Switzerland,*Larino, Italy,...

 to attend a literary awards ceremony, where he met, among others, Eugenio Montale
Eugenio Montale
Eugenio Montale was an Italian poet, prose writer, editor and translator, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1975.- Early years :...

 and Maria Bellonci
Maria Bellonci
Maria Villavecchia Bellonci was an Italian writer known especially for her biography of Lucrezia Borgia. She and Guido Alberti set up the Strega Prize in 1947....

. It is said that it was upon returning from this trip that he commenced writing Il Gattopardo (The Leopard
The Leopard
The Leopard is a novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa that chronicles the changes in Sicilian life and society during the Risorgimento...

), 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
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

. Following a requiem
A Requiem or Requiem Mass, also known as Mass for the dead or Mass of the dead , is a Mass celebrated for the repose of the soul or souls of one or more deceased persons, using a particular form of the Roman Missal...

 in the Basilica del Sacro Cuore di Gesu in Rome, he was buried in the Capuchin
Order of Friars Minor Capuchin
The Order of Friars Minor Capuchin is an Order of friars in the Catholic Church, among the chief offshoots of the Franciscans. The worldwide head of the Order, called the Minister General, is currently Father Mauro Jöhri.-Origins :...

 cemetery of Palermo. His novel was published the year after his death; Elena Croce had sent it to the writer Giorgio Bassani
Giorgio Bassani
Giorgio Bassani was an Italian novelist, poet, essayist, editor, and international intellectual.-Biography:Bassani was born in Bologna into a prosperous Jewish family of Ferrara, where he spent his childhood with his mother Dora, father Enrico , brother Paolo, and sister Jenny...

, who brought it to the attention of the Feltrinelli
Giangiacomo Feltrinelli
Giangiacomo Feltrinelli was an Italian publisher and left-wing political activist. He founded the publishing house Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore in 1954. He was also a communist and founded the GAP militant grouping in 1970...

 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
Strega Prize
The Strega Prize is the most prestigious Italian literary award. It has been awarded annually since 1947 for the best work of prose fiction by an Italian author and first published between 1 May of the previous year and 30 April...

 for the novel.


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
Kingdom of the Two Sicilies
The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, commonly known as the Two Sicilies even before formally coming into being, was the largest and wealthiest of the Italian states before Italian unification...

 and to ally himself with Giuseppe Garibaldi
Giuseppe Garibaldi
Giuseppe Garibaldi was an Italian military and political figure. In his twenties, he joined the Carbonari Italian patriot revolutionaries, and fled Italy after a failed insurrection. Garibaldi took part in the War of the Farrapos and the Uruguayan Civil War leading the Italian Legion, and...

 and the House of Savoy
House of Savoy
The House of Savoy was formed in the early 11th century in the historical Savoy region. Through gradual expansion, it grew from ruling a small county in that region to eventually rule the Kingdom of Italy from 1861 until the end of World War II, king of Croatia and King of Armenia...

: "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."

The title is rendered in English as "The Leopard", but the Italian word gattopardo refers to the American ocelot
The ocelot , pronounced /ˈɒsəˌlɒt/, also known as the dwarf leopard or McKenney's wildcat is a wild cat distributed over South and Central America and Mexico, but has been reported as far north as Texas and in Trinidad, in the Caribbean...

 or to the African serval
The serval , Leptailurus serval or Caracal serval, known in Afrikaans as Tierboskat, "tiger-forest-cat", is a medium-sized African wild cat. DNA studies have shown that the serval is closely related to the African golden cat and the caracal...

. 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
Elio Vittorini
Elio Vittorini was an Italian writer and novelist. He was a contemporary of Cesare Pavese and an influential voice in the modernist school of novel writing. His best-known work is the anti-fascist novel Conversations in Sicily, for which he was jailed when it was published in 1941. The first U.S...

 and Alberto Moravia
Alberto Moravia
Alberto Moravia, born Alberto Pincherle was an Italian novelist and journalist. His novels explored matters of modern sexuality, social alienation, and existentialism....

. However, the novel was very popular among so-called common readers, as well as with prestigious foreign intellectuals such as Louis Aragon
Louis Aragon
Louis Aragon , was a French poet, novelist and editor, a long-time member of the Communist Party and a member of the Académie Goncourt.- Early life :...

 and E. M. Forster
E. M. Forster
Edward Morgan Forster OM, CH was an English novelist, short story writer, essayist and librettist. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society...

. In 1963 Il Gattopardo
The Leopard (film)
The Leopard is a 1963 Italian film by director Luchino Visconti, based on Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's novel of the same name.-Cast:* Burt Lancaster as Prince Don Fabrizio Salina* Claudia Cardinale as Angelica Sedara / Bertiana...

was made into a film, directed by Luchino Visconti
Luchino Visconti
Luchino Visconti di Modrone, Count of Lonate Pozzolo was an Italian theatre, opera and cinema director, as well as a screenwriter. He is best known for his films The Leopard and Death in Venice .-Life:...

 and starring Burt Lancaster
Burt Lancaster
Burton Stephen "Burt" Lancaster was an American film actor noted for his athletic physique and distinctive smile...

, Alain Delon
Alain Delon
Alain Fabien Maurice Marcel Delon is a French actor. He rose quickly to stardom, and by the age of 23 was already being compared to French actors such as Gérard Philipe and Jean Marais, as well as American actor James Dean. He was even called the male Brigitte Bardot...

 and Claudia Cardinale
Claudia Cardinale
Claudia Cardinale is an Italian actress, and has appeared in some of the most prominent European films of the 1960s and 1970s. The majority of Cardinale's films have been either Italian or French...

, and which won the Palme d'Or
Palme d'Or
The Palme d'Or is the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival and is presented to the director of the best feature film of the official competition. It was introduced in 1955 by the organising committee. From 1939 to 1954, the highest prize was the Grand Prix du Festival International du...

 at the Cannes Film Festival
Cannes Film Festival
The Cannes International Film Festival , is an annual film festival held in Cannes, France, which previews new films of all genres including documentaries from around the world. Founded in 1946, it is among the world's most prestigious and publicized film festivals...


Tomasi also wrote some lesser-known works: I racconti (Stories, first published 1961), Le lezioni su Stendhal (Lessons on Stendhal
Marie-Henri Beyle , better known by his pen name Stendhal, was a 19th-century French writer. Known for his acute analysis of his characters' psychology, he is considered one of the earliest and foremost practitioners of realism in his two novels Le Rouge et le Noir and La Chartreuse de Parme...

, 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 belt
The asteroid belt is the region of the Solar System located roughly between the orbits of the planets Mars and Jupiter. It is occupied by numerous irregularly shaped bodies called asteroids or minor planets...

Asteroids are a class of small Solar System bodies in orbit around the Sun. They have also been called planetoids, especially the larger ones...

 14846 Lampedusa
14846 Lampedusa
- External links :*...

is named after him.


Further reading

  • Gefen, Gérard. (2001) Sicily, Land of the Leopard Princes. Tauris Parke.
  • Gilmour, David. (2007) The Last Leopard. A life of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. Eland Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-0955010514
  • Changing things so everything stays the same, The Economist, October 22, 1998

External links

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