Thursday 26 June 2008

The Leopard

It's usually a big mistake to re-read books that especially impressed you in your teenage years. Indeed, there are some that can only be read in your teenage years - miss them then and it's too late. Catcher In The Rye and Le Grand Meaulnes are classic examples. For years, therefore, I was reluctant to re-read The Leopard, since it had affected me to a quite extraordinary degree when I first read it (more than once) as a teenager. A couple of weeks ago, though, I plunged in again - and, I'm happy to report, I was not disappointed. What an extraordinary book it is - hard to think of another like it (though it has, I suppose, a Stendhalian feel). There's a kind of monumental inevitability about it - probably owed to the long years of its gestation - and yet an elegant lightness and wit. I was surprised to find that I actually remembered a lot of it too - normally I'm a scandalously forgetful reader. How odd that I should have happened on it in my teenage years, and that, on this occasion, I still seem to be much the same reader. The Leopard surely is what it gives every appearance of being - a classic.


  1. I have a friend who's been urging me to read "The Leopard" for years, but I'm afraid. I have some very bad rereading experiences, too, notably with John Steinbeck. What if this supposed classic sucks? But since you say it's actually good, I'll try it. I'm just about free again for a new book (one I don't have to review and so can just enjoy).

  2. Oh do, Susan - I'm sure you'll enjoy it. I was nuts about Steinbeck too, but never reread him - I think I sensed it would be a mistake...

  3. It can be hit and miss going back to teenage experiences, books, music, holidays and films. I read Dostoevsky as a teenager and my attention spanometer kicked in halfway through both Karamazov and Crime and Punishment, Tried again in my forties, same again. I also read Turgenev and can go back now and enjoy the experience. John Wyndham ditto, I agree about Catcher in the Rye, tried to read Malty junior's copy, bored stiff.
    The first book that I can remember reading was called Chris in Canada and I have one on order right now, lets see. Can You, like an awfull lot of people, reread time and again The Wind in The Willows ?
    Susan, I agree totally about John Steinbeck, over descriptive.

    Do you remember how popular Dennis Wheatley was way back in time, I may give him a try again.
    On the subject of books, and I know the this blog and BAs abounds with persons of a literary bent, a question, has anyone finished War and Peace and enjoyed the read ? I simply lapsed into a catatonic trance, and yet the Cossacks is one of the best books of short stories there is.
    Ditto incidentally the Mona Lisa, five times I've stood in front of her, each time, nothing, it may be something to do with having to share the view with 75 chattering Japanese,

  4. Malty, indeed: During a (too brief) period of (joyous) unemployment this fall, I thought I'd better read the last Tolstoy I'd left untouched. I read "War and Peace" in Anthony Briggs' translation and it was a delight. A soap opera in many ways, but a delight. Tolstoy really understood different types of people.

    But it is two books. One is a novel, about two or three wealthy Russian families living before, during, and after the war with Napoleon. The other book is some kind of weird commentary on the art of war and Napoleon. I began to skip a lot of that and you can too. It's the Rostovs that are interesting, not Tolstoy's reflections on how history is written (at least, not in and around the novel).

  5. War and Peace, Malty? Never read it - nor Karamazov, The Idiot, large numbers of Russian doorstops - but I love and admire Anna Karenin.

  6. "During a (too brief) period of (joyous) unemployment this fall".

    FALL? Am I to read into that that you are an American? I always had you pictured in my mind's eye as the epitome of a certain English sensibility(and nationality). It's always the little things that give us away, isn't it?

  7. Recusant, how can you not know I'm an American? I'm always commenting on the American perspective, saying how I live in Philadelphia, blah-blah. However, I am also an Anglophile, have visited G.B. many times, and have a Ph.D. in 19th-century British literature.

    Right now I am truly jonesing to visit the Lake District, but we are broke. Went to Paris for a week around Easter and it has drained the exchequer for the foreseeable future.

    Europe and G.B. are pretty much unaffordable for Americans right now unless they have their way paid -- as my eldest bro does, who is flying to Dublin today to give a keynote speech at some Archaeology/Ecology conference. Sigh.

  8. Nige, about the book The Leopard, the first time I read it it was in portuguese ( I'm brazilian) e it was bad translated. Then , there was Il Gattopardo, a Visconti's movie , another adventure. Finally, I reread it, in Italian, and it was a better book than ever, although I think I 've just read it for the very first time. Maybe that's not fair, that kind of rereading, what do you think? Nice blog, any way.

  9. Il Gattopardo was the first book i read in Italian, with the English in my other hand for tough bits. i think i was about 25 and it felt like a book i'd appreciate more when i was 60, though i did enjoy it. Curiously, the translation omits some interesting paragraphs about the sex dungeons Tancred discovers in one of the palazzi.

  10. Susan, you may want to take a rain check on a visit to The English Lakes. Overcrowded, impossible to park anywhere at any time of the year, expensive, inaccessible, wet, windy, scenic. I learned my mountaineering skills there in the 1950s, went back in the eighties, couldn't get out quick enough.
    Sorry to be a Jonah but its a long way to come to be disappointed.