cover image The Professor and the Siren

The Professor and the Siren

Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa, trans. from the Italian by Stephen Twilley. New York Review Books, $12.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-59017-719-8

The reputation of Sicilian writer Lampedusa rests entirely on his lone novel The Leopard, written at the end of his life and published posthumously. That said, the title story from this slim collection is a classic of weird fiction revolving around Italian Senator Rosario La Ciura, an eminent Greek scholar and surely one of the most memorable old cranks in literature. His insolent diatribes are gorgeously rendered—making it all the more jarring when they give way to a moving recollection of his love affair with a magical and wild creature whose memory beckons the scholar from the deep. “Joy and the Law” is a vaguely condescending workplace fable about a hapless clerk who spends his meager earnings returning the generosity of an employer; and “The Blind Kittens” isn’t a story at all, but the first chapter of an unfinished novel concerning the wealthy Don Batassano Ibba, whose holdings may be as exaggerated as the stories the locals tell of his mysterious lifestyle. The recent memory of Italian fascism lurks in the background of these posthumously published stories, which, taken for what they are, reinforce Lampedusa’s acknowledged mastery of prose—but only the title story extends it. (July)