cover image The Last Leopard: Life/Guiseppe

The Last Leopard: Life/Guiseppe

David Gilmour. Pantheon Books, $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-40183-4

At age 47 Giuseppe Tomasi, prince of Lampedusa (1896-1957), still slept in the bedrom where he had been born. The abnormally taciturn recluse, who mined the history of his Sicilian aristocratic family in its ruinous decline for his classic novel The Leopard , had a ``vexatious, disappointing and often pathetic life.'' His arrogant, sharp-tongued father, fueled by a ridiculous sense of pride, spent much of his life quarreling with relatives over money. Lampedusa's domineering mother nearly wrecked her son's marriage to psychoanalyst Beatrice Mastrogiovanni, a largely epistolary relationship for years at a stretch. In this elegant, sprightly biography, Gilmour ( Lebanon: The Fractured Country ) draws an incisive portrait of a curious modernist outsider deeply skeptical of all human motives. Lampedusa's fictional counterpart, Don Fabrizio, The Leopard 's protagonist, likewise seems a contemporary figure swinging from hedonistic pursuits to the contemplation of eternity without a personal God. Photos. (Aug.)