"What Italian words do you know?” asked my Italian language professor on the first day of class.
“Pasta,” said a student.
“Chianti,” said another.
“Gattopardo,” I said.
It was an odd word to know—but Il Gattopardo by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa was one of the reasons I was taking this Italian class.
But “gattopardo” wasn’t a word my professor knew. Apparently, it’s uncommonly used in northern Italy. In northern Italy, “leopardo” is the typical word for “leopard.”
“Well, no one can know everything,” I thought, and continued with the course.
I wouldn’t have known about Lampedusa either, if I hadn’t found a copy of The Leopard in my grandmother’s library. The novel amazed me from its first page, and it remains one of the great reading experiences of my life.
It might, nevertheless, be best enjoyed by those who have cheerful dispositions.
Its autumnal tones of change and decay might depress a melancholic temperament. And indeed, Lampedusa seemed a melancholic among melancholics, the last prince of a defunct house of royalty that hailed from the tiny island of Lampedusa, sitting alone in his leaky palace, under a witheringly hot sun.
In autumn, many of us take stock. We look at where we are, what we’ve done, who we love—and sometimes, the changes year to year can be challenging.
Lampedusa’s The Leopard contains no easy answers to facing change.
But it makes one astute and famous observation:
“If we want everything to remain as it is, it will be necessary for everything to change.”
Orlando Bartro is the author of Toward Two Words, a comical & literary novel about a man who finds yet another woman he never knew, available at Amazon. He is currently writing two new novels and a play.