Updated: May 20, 2022
Steven Price's Lampedusa s a novel about the writing of Gattopardo, one of the greatest classics of the 20th century and a book I myself have been reading all my life. So consider me prejudiced. I find Price's book as beautiful and as moving as the book which is its topic.
Mirella Radice was slender, with small shoulders, and a long soft neck with a fuzz of brown hair at the nape. He had found her quiet and submissive when Giò had first brought her to meet them two years ago but soon he had come to recognize the quick arched eyebrow, the slight lift of her lip when Giò spoke outrageously, and he had liked both the discretion and the dryness of her company. She had a habit of taking in a room as if from the side of her vision, and of turning her face slightly as one spoke so she might seem to be listening more intently. Her voice was low, her laugh deep and rich like a laugh heard from underwater. When she smiled, he felt old, but did not mind it, for there was such a purity of emotion in her. He could not recall a time when his own pleasure had been untainted by loss, by sadness. Mirella was educated, but uncultured, and it was this he and Licy had set to correct in her. No life can be lived deeply, Licy told her upon their first meeting, if it is lived outside of art.
See how gorgeously written it is.
And with tenderness one would never expect from a man his age: such delicacy would surprise even in a sixty-year-old
And with insight into the nuances of the condition of the last of European aristocracy which one would never associate with a New World author. A tremendous amount of research has gone into the book — what kind of uniform did Lampedusa wear during the war? What kind of car did young Francesco drive? Somewhere within that seamless text details of the world described pass from established facts into facts imagined (what did they eat for lunch? how did the light shift at that moment?) and the reader is constantly asking himself: how did you know all this? How did you master it? What sources did you use? What books and films and diaries? How many decades of your life have gone into this work? The illusion of verisimilitude is complete.
And the insight into the character of Lampedusa -- his internal monologues, his states of mind -- astounds with its complete convincing credibility. Like Lampedusa’s novel was about his grandfather, and older man he had known and loved, so this, too, must be a portrait of someone the author has known and loved.
It is a mystery of how this masterpiece came to be.
Steven Price, Lampedusa