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lampedusa frontThe great Italian culture speaks to many of us worldwide. You do not have to read Dante. If you like history and literature though, then you could read The Leopard, better known perhaps in the Italian language with the original title Il Gattopardo by Giuseppe di Lampedusa.

lampedusa rearSome of you in midtown Manhattan or in Richboro near Philadelphia could be dining in an Italian restaurant named Il Gattopardo, and we would probably be interested in finding out how many restaurants in Italy are named like that too!

The story surrounding the publication of the original book is interesting. No Italian publisher could be found when it was written, and the author Giuseppe di Lampedusa, a real Prince and scion of an ancient Sicilian Noble Family passed away before the book went into print.

The book became an overnight sensation when published shortly thereafter in Italy. It sold over 250,000 copies in Italy, 100,000 copies in France and was named the best fiction book by Time Magazine in 1960. It became one of six bestsellers that year in Great Britain.

So successful was the original story that in 1963 a movie was made The Leopard with Claudia Cardinale, Alain Delon and the unforgettable Burt Lancaster starring in the main roles. The Director was the master Director/Producer Luchino Visconti. Below is a trailer for this movie.

The wonderful book cover displayed above was designed by Jerome B. Moriarty and I wished I knew more about him and his work as an illustrator. The  cover artwork I find is superb.  This 1966 paperback was published as a Time Reading Program Special Edition. Presumably this title is still required reading in Italian high schools even today.

The author was born in 1896 and the book although fiction has many autobiographical overtones. The setting is in the latter part of the 19th. Century Sicily where an Aristocrat has troubles in dealing with the changing times and the inevitable initial chaos that arrives with the unification of Italy and the effects it has on a younger generation. Below is a video of the

As the novelist E.M. Foster says of the book according to the foreword in the book by the English scholar and critic A.L. Rowse: ” this is a great lonely book that enlarges one’s sense of life. We can all experience both the loneliness and the enlargement of experience, and be grateful.”  A great drama not entirely unknown in our own time. I am actually wondering if the restaurateurs who own these namesake restaurants ever read the book. The same does not apply to Dante. There are enough restaurants owned by Italian Dantes everywhere.

Do you know any of them?