32. Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (1896 – 1957)

Writer born in Palermo, mostly famous for his only novel, Il Gattopardo (published posthumously in 1958 and translated as “The Leopard”), set in his native Sicily during the Risorgimento. Solitary man, Tomasi di Lampedusa spent most of his time reading and meditating.

As a child he studied in their grand house in Palermo with a tutor (including the subjects of literature and English), with his mother (who taught him French), and with a grandmother who read him the novels of Emilio Salgari. In 1911, he attended the liceo classico in Rome and later in Palermo. He moved definitively to Rome in 1915 where enrolled in the faculty of jurisprudence. However, that year he was drafted into the army, fought in the lost battle of Caporetto, and was taken prisoner by the Austro-Hungarian Army. He was held in a POW camp in Hungary, but succeeded in escaping and returning to Italy. After being mustered out of the army as a lieutenant, he returned to Sicily where he started drafting the ideas for his future novel The Leopard.

In 1932, in Riga he married Alexandra Borisovna Wolff von Stomersee (1894–1982), Licy, a Baltic German noblewoman and a student of psychoanalysis. The couple first lived with Tomasi’s mother in Palermo, but soon the incompatibility between the two women drove Licy back to Riga. In 1934 Tomasi di Lampedusa’s father died, and he inherited his princely title. He was briefly called back to arms in 1940, but, as owner of a hereditary agricultural estate, was soon sent back home to take care of its affairs. He and his mother ultimately took refuge in Capo d’Orlando, where he was reunited with Licy. They survived the war, but their palace in Palermo did not.

After his mother died in 1946, Tomasi returned to live with his wife in Palermo. In 1953 he began to spend time with a group of young intellectuals, one of whom was Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, a cousin, with whom he developed such a close relationship that, the following year, he legally adopted him.

It is said that it was upon returning from this trip that he commenced writing Il Gattopardo (The Leopard), which was finished in 1956. During his life, the novel was rejected by the two publishers to whom Tomasi submitted it.

In 1957 Tomasi di Lampedusa was diagnosed with lung cancer and died soon afterwards. His novel, The Leopard, finished in 1956 and initially rejected twice while he was alive, was published a year after his death. Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) was quickly recognized as a great work of Italian literature. In 1959 Tomasi di Lampedusa was posthumously awarded the prestigious Strega Prize for the novel, and in 1963 was adapted in a movie directed by Lucchino Visconti.

Read More:
1. Encyclopedia Britannica, http://www.britannica.com/biography/Giuseppe-Tomasi-di-Lampedusa
2. Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giuseppe_Tomasi_di_Lampedusa


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