'The Leopard' by Giuseppe di Lampedusa
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The Leopard
By Giuseppe di Lampedusa

I wouldn't give a damn about the world of this book were it not for the fact that Lampedusa draws you into it in such an intoxicating fashion. The descriptions of 19th-century Sicily were written with such melancholy, honesty and lack of sentimentality that I found myself thinking this era was the most important thing. What blew me away, though, were the passages about death.

Extraordinary.

The prince, whose family is part of the dying aristocracy, says sleep is what the Sicilians want. They don't want anything forward looking. All their magnificent history and the things they worship—their cathedrals and castles and heritage—are things Sicilians love only because they're dead. It's a romance with sleep and death—a desire for what he calls voluptuous immobility.

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