My near neighbour, several acres away, fears these Arabs are heading for him and will fill his fields with camels.
“And dates?” I said.
“This is serious, Mr Stan. We live in a crowded island,” said he, gazing at his lonesome acreage.
Of course it was Prince Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa that I was, like all civilized men, reminded of.
A Little Old Lady enters the blog.
“Who the Christ is he, Mr Stan?” she asks.
“Why, Little Old Lady,” I say, “he is the author of the great modern Italian classic The Leopard.”
“About the Mafia? I love reading about people sleeping with the fishes.”
Lampedusa was born in Palermo, but he was an aristocrat. Fought in the First World War in the battle of Caporetto (see E.Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms), was captured by the Austo-Hungarian Army but escaped from a POW camp in Hungary and got back to Italy.
Here ended his life of physical excitement. He travelled around Europe with his mother.
“That’s nice,” says the Little Old Lady.
Inspired by James Joyce’s Ulysses he planned to try a novel in which everything happened in one day.
“Everything happened in one night with me, Mr Stan,” says the Little Old Lady, “and you know, I’ve forgotten his name. Did Lampo marry?”
In 1932 in Riga in Latvia he married a Baltic German noblewoman, Alexandra Wolff von Stomersee.
“She wasn’t the girl next door,” the Little Old Lady says.
The Leopard is the tale of a Sicilian nobleman, Don Fabrizio Corbera, aka the Prince of Salina. This is during the Risorgimento. Don Fabrizio joins Giuseppe Garibaldi…”
“Like the biscuit?” asks the Little Old Lady.
The Leopard was turned down by two publishers and was only published after Lampedusa’s death in 1957 at the age of 60. The novel was attacked for being too like Tolstoy. Can you imagine that?
“I can imagine plenty, Mr Stan, that’s all I do these days,” says the Little Old Lady.
Luckily Louis Aragon and E.M. Forster loved it. In 1963 Luchino Visconti made a film of The Leopard. This starred Burt Lancaster. Since seeing Burt batting his eyelashes like a boy on a Hollywood street corner looking for a night’s friendship in The Crimson Pirate, I was worried about this. But he was terrific in a terrific film, which also starred Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale. Many big-brained intellectuals like me consider The Leopard one of the few movies that doesn’t play hell with the novel.
Which brings to mind that ridiculous travesty of Agatha Christie’s The Big Four shown last week on TV. The book was set in 1927 and delivers an old-fashioned murder mystery from the Golden Age. In the TV adaptation it is set just before World War Two, and is full of ridiculous twists and turns. Luckily I fell asleep. Agatha Christie doesn’t have a forest in Sweden dedicated to producing paper for reprinting her books to have silly ‘updated’ plotlines to make them more popular for television.
P.S. My deluxe Christmas thriller Murder In A Cold Climate , set in snowbound New England, has no Belgians with cardboard moustaches or half-crowns-up-the-ass walks in it.
“Isn’t he a Frenchman, Mr Stan? And what’s the difference? Also that should be a 50p up his ass. We must be up-to-date, Mr Stan.”