Published posthumously in by Feltrinelli , after two rejections by the leading Italian publishing houses Mondadori and Einaudi , it became the top-selling novel in Italian history [ citation needed ] and is considered one of the most important novels in modern Italian literature. In , it won Italy's highest award for fiction, the Strega Prize. Tomasi was the last in a line of minor princes in Sicily , and he had long contemplated writing a historical novel based on his great-grandfather, Don Giulio Fabrizio Tomasi, another Prince of Lampedusa.
After the Lampedusa palace near Palermo was bombed and pillaged during the Allied invasion of Sicily , Tomasi sank into a lengthy depression, and began to write Il Gattopardo as a way to combat it.
Despite being universally known in English as The Leopard , the original title Il Gattopardo actually refers to a serval , a much smaller animal. Although uncommon north of the Sahara Desert , one of the serval's few North African ranges is quite near Lampedusa.
The symbol on the Tomasi di Lampedusa coat of arms is the serval, and though unusual, servals were owned by some Sicilians as exotic pets.
The novel is the story of Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina,  a 19th-century Sicilian nobleman caught in the midst of civil war and revolution. As a result of political upheaval, the prince's position in the island's class system is eroded by newly-moneyed peasants and "shabby minor gentry.
A central theme of the story is the struggle between mortality and decay death, fading of beauty, fading of memories, change of political system, false relics etc. This heraldic emblem is the key to destruction, in the sense that ruin comes even to the dog. Most of the novel is set during the time of the Risorgimento , specifically during the period when Giuseppe Garibaldi , the hero of Italian unification, swept through Sicily with his forces, known as The Thousand.
The plot focuses upon the aristocratic Salina family, which is headed by the stoic Prince Fabrizio, a consummate womanizer who foresees the upcoming downfall of his family and the nobility in Italy as a whole but finds himself unable to change the course of history.
As the novel opens in May , Garibaldi's Redshirts have landed on the Sicilian coast and are pressing inland to overthrow the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Don Fabrizio is a prince from a proud noble family of power and influence and a strict code of conduct and ritual.
With the Italian Risorgimento the Kingdom of Sicily and its capital Naples are under attack; and, as the people are generally in favor of the change, the Prince knows that he is the last Leopard—the last in his line, the last who will truly understand and adhere to the old ways, and he finds that the world that is coming is vulgar and distasteful.
In his nephew Tancredi he sees a younger version of himself, but he knows that Tancredi will need to in some ways accept the new power and the new ways if there should be any chance of saving some part of that older time: "For everything to stay the same, everything must change," says Tancredi. The Leopard sees that there is some truth to this but he remains reluctant and goes through the motions with little enthusiasm. This chapter  begins with a detailed description of the exquisitely decorated drawing-room where the Salina family recites the daily rosary.
Afterwards, the Prince wanders out into the garden, where the sickly, over-ripe smells of lush foliage threaten to overwhelm him with memories — specifically, of a mortally wounded Neapolitan soldier who, in his last moments, had clawed his way into the lemon grove and died there. At dinner, the Prince announces that he will drive his coach into Palermo. The adults at the table, including the Princess and the family's Jesuit chaplain , instantly know that the only reason he is leaving is to visit a brothel.
As the Prince is driven in his carriage into the city, he passes Tancredi's villa, worrying again that Tancredi has fallen in with bad company  —specifically, with the rebels fighting to overthrow the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The Prince's thoughts vacillate between anticipation and guilt, between disgust with his wife who crosses herself whenever they make love or he even kisses her goodnight; to preempt a private rebuke from the family priest about visiting prostitutes, the Prince points out that "he's had seven children with the Princess and yet has never seen her navel" and admiration of her prudishness.
Two hours later, his thoughts run a similar course, with the addition of a kind of disgusted satisfaction with the prostitute and a satisfied disgust with his own body. When he arrives back home, he finds the Princess in bed, thinks affectionately of her, climbs into bed with her and finds he cannot sleep. The following morning, the Prince's shaving is interrupted by the arrival of Tancredi, who reveals that his position in the Italian nationalist movement has risen.
He adds that he will soon be joining Garibaldi in the mountains. The Prince suddenly imagines his beloved nephew dead in the garden with his guts trailing out like the Crown soldier, and tries to dissuade him from departing.
However, Tancredi insists that he is fighting for a very good reason. Later, as the Prince gets dressed, he realizes the practicality of Tancredi's words.
Il Gattopardo (Vals Lancaster-Cardinale)
As he ponders the coming upheavals, he realizes that his nephew is more aristocratically-minded than he had thought. This dislike intensifies during visits from his accountant and one of his tenants, both of whom are allied with the Redshirts.
Both of them assure the Prince that the unification of Italy will be peaceful and will benefit everyone, including the nobility. The Prince allows himself to be reassured, certain that the class system will remain unchanged no matter what.
This belief is reinforced through his visit to the Salinas' chaplain, Father Pirrone, atop a tower where the men practice their joint hobby of astronomy. At lunch, the Prince becomes aware that his family is worried about Tancredi's safety. As a result, the Prince makes an effort to appear simultaneously concerned and reassuring. When dessert is brought out, it is his favorite - a large, castle-shaped jelly. As dessert commences, the castle is essentially demolished before Don Paolo, the Prince's son and heir, gets a chance to have any.
That evening, the Prince receives a letter urging him to flee to safety from the revolution. In response, he simply laughs.
Later, as the Salinas gather to say their rosary, the Prince reads in a newspaper of the approach of Garibaldi and his men. The Prince is disturbed, but reassures himself that Garibaldi will be reined in by his Piedmontese masters. Both the officials of the town and the common people greet the Salinas as gladly as always.
The Prince reflects on Garibaldi 's recent conquest of the island. The Expedition of the Thousand landed at Marsala, where Tancredi and other native Sicilians joined them.
Garibaldi's march was finally completed with the Siege of Gaeta, where the final Bourbons were expelled and Garibaldi announced his dictatorship in the name of Victor Emmanuel II of the Kingdom of Sardinia. Upon his arrival, the citizens of Palermo rejoiced and, later, local leaders of the movement had called at the Salina palace.
Although they treated the Prince with great respect, one of them insisted on flirting with his daughter Concetta. After Mass, the Princess invites the officials to the traditional first-night dinner, and Don Calogero requests permission to bring his daughter Angelica. As the Prince inspects his property and possessions, the manager lists everything that has been done to keep the estate in order and then passes on some local news.
Don Calogero, who was active in Garibaldi's invasion, has become a wealthy landowner and businessman. To the dismay of the Prince, Don Calogero is now almost as wealthy as the Salinas. The manager adds that Angelica has become quite full of herself as a result.
The Prince realizes that he is somewhat resentful of Don Calogero's status. The Prince's bath before dinner is interrupted by the arrival of Father Pirrone.
Concetta has asked Father Pirrone to tell her father that she is in love with Tancredi and that she believes a marriage proposal to be imminent. She desires instruction from her father as to how she is to respond. The Prince ponders his fondness for Concetta, which is based in her apparent submissiveness and placidity. However, he thinks that Tancredi's political ambitions may require more money than Concetta will bring as her dowry.
Keeping his thoughts to himself, the Prince decrees that Father Pirrone is to tell Concetta that the Prince will discuss it with her later. After a nap, the Prince goes out into the garden, where his contemplations of an erotic statue are interrupted by Tancredi's teasing about sex, comments which also apply to a small crop of beautifully ripe peaches in a nearby grove.
The Prince uneasily changes the subject, and he and Tancredi gossip their way back to the house, where they join the rest of the family and the arriving dinner guests.
The Leopard – Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
Soon after, Don Calogero arrives, and the Prince is relieved to see that he is dressed quite tastelessly. His relief ends abruptly when Angelica arrives — he finds her attractive enough to feel the stir of lust.
At dinner, Angelica flirts openly with Tancredi — who, in his turn, finds himself attracted to both Angelica's beauty and her money.
He tells Angelica a risque story about storming a convent, and jokes about how if she had been present, his band of comrades would not have needed the nuns. Concetta is enraged, angrily rebukes Tancredi, and turns her back to him.
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The following day, the Prince and his family uphold a centuries-old family tradition and visit a convent founded by a female ancestor. Although tradition demands that he hold back, Tancredi expresses a desire to enter the convent, saying that a new interpretation of the rules will allow him to. To the shock of both Tancredi and her father, Concetta snaps that Tancredi has already been in a convent and enters without him.
After returning from the convent, the Prince looks out from his window at the town square of Donnafugata and spies Tancredi, dressed in his 'seduction color' of Prussian blue. Narration then describes how Tancredi writes every week, but never to Concetta and always with comments that he would like the Prince to pass on to Angelica, who, in turn, visits every day, pretending to come to see the girls but in reality to learn news of Tancredi. One particular day, a letter arrives from Tancredi in which he asks the Prince to ask Angelica's father for her hand in marriage.
He uses several arguments to convince the Prince to do so, among them being she will bring money into the family and guarantee that the family will continue to have status in the new kingdom of Italy.
The Prince finds himself agreeing with many of Tancredi's points, and takes a little second-hand sensual pleasure in knowing that he will soon be able to enjoy seeing Angelica more often.
When the Prince informs the Princess, she is outraged and accuses Tancredi of betraying both Concetta and his lawful King. The Prince angrily replies that if Concetta wished to marry Tancredi, then she should not have refused him outside the convent. The Princess relaxes.
Later, the Prince and Ciccio eat their picnic lunch and settle down for a nap. However, instead of sleeping, the Prince finds himself contemplating the recent vote taken on the question of whether Sicily should politically join with the new Italian Kingdom. The Prince remembers how he could not decide which way to mark his ballot.
Eventually he voted 'yes'. He then recalls the celebrations which greeted the result — a unanimous vote in favor. The Prince contemplates what he believes to be the historical significance of the vote, as well as its deeper meaning. This leads him to ask Ciccio how he voted in the Plebiscite.
At first reluctant, Don Ciccio finally admits that, as the son of a Bourbon royal gamekeeper, he could not bring himself to vote in favor of the revolution. Many others in Donnafugata voted the same way, but Don Calogero rigged the election and announced the results as unanimous in favor of the House of Savoy.
Don Ciccio speaks at angry length of how many people despise Don Calogero in spite of, or perhaps because of, his embodiment of a harsh reality — that 'every coin spent in the world must end in someone's pocket'.
Don Calogero, a peasant moneylender, eloped with Angelica's mother, who was the daughter of a penniless Salina tenant. Don Calogero's father-in-law vowed revenge, but his corpse was later found, shot twelve times in the back.
Claudia cardinale il gattopardo book
Although scandalized by Don Ciccio's stories, the Prince at last asks the question that is really on his mind — what is Angelica truly like? Don Ciccio speaks rapturously of her beauty, poise and sophistication, and then speaks about how her parents' vulgarity seems not to have affected her.
Don Ciccio, who has believed that Tancredi was attempting to seduce Angelica and ruin her marriage prospects, in order to embarrass her father, is horrified. He bursts out that for Tancredi and Angelica to marry will cause the end of the good qualities of the Salina and Falconieri families. However, the Prince thinks to himself that the marriage will be not the end, but the beginning. The Prince takes his time dressing for his meeting with Don Calogero, and when he finally goes downstairs, he has a vision of the two of them as animals.
Their conversation is, for the most part, polite, with both men making occasional slips into tactlessness, but both ultimately making the truths of the situation quite apparent.