March 2, 2024

1. The Leopard

The Leopard is an Italian novel, published in 1958, and quickly recognized as a classic. The author, Lampedusa, was from Sicily, and the novel is set in Sicily in the late 1800s, when Italy is being unified by Garibaldi and others. The Leopard isn’t avant-garde, it’s clear, realistic, classical. It’s often humorous; indeed, much of its charm comes from its humor. In the original Italian, the title of the novel is Il Gattopardo.

In the novel, the name “Lampedusa” is changed to “Salina.” The Leopard is the heraldic symbol or logo of the Prince of Salina. The protagonist of the novel is the Prince, i.e., The Leopard; the Prince is based on Lampedusa’s great-grandfather.

There’s an island south of Sicily called Lampedusa; it was owned by the Lampedusa family for almost 200 years, then sold in the 1840s to the Kingdom of Naples. And there’s an island north of Sicily called Salina. The Lampedusa family is related to another “literary leopard,” the Italian poet/essayist Giacomo Leopardi, whom Wikipedia calls, “the greatest Italian poet of the nineteenth century and one of the most important figures in the literature of the world.”1

Lampedusa is class-conscious; one might say he’s more conscious of class than of anything else. The Leopard deals with the decline of the aristocracy. Lampedusa himself was a member of the aristocracy, he was the Prince of Lampedusa.

Lampedusa’s Leopard takes a pessimistic view of the future, similar to the view I took in a recent issue. The aristocracy is losing power, Lampedusa says, and the new regime will be worse. After the Prince sees peasants living in squalor,

The Prince was depressed: “All this shouldn’t last; but it will, always; the human ‘always,’ of course, a century, two centuries... and after that it will be different, but worse. We were the Leopards, the Lions; those who’ll take our place will be little jackals, hyenas.”2

A representative of the new regime asks the Prince to join the Senate. He responds, “For the moment, for a long time yet, there’s nothing to be done. I am sorry; but I cannot lift a finger in politics. It would only get bitten.”

We saw a similar attitude when we discussed The Book of Ebenezer Le Page. The author, G. B. Edwards, is writing about a young man named Neville:

Edwards believes that we must endure the political situation: “As bad as Guernsey is, I hope [Neville] will not butt in and try and change it. It will change quick enough without his help; and for the worse and worse. He must endure it.”

As the Portuguese philosopher Pessoa wrote,

A terrible, progressive illness has fallen on our civilization.... The horror of action, which has to be vile in a vile society, sullied our spirit. The soul’s higher activity sickened; only its lower activity, because it was more vital, did not decay.... The only recourse for souls born to command was abstention.

Pessoa was born in 1888, Lampedusa in 1896, Edwards in 1899. Is today’s political situation confirmation of their dark predictions? Has our political situation become “worse and worse”?

Lampedusa is often compared to Edwards: both are known for one novel, both wrote their magnum opus late in life, both died before their novel was published. Lampedusa’s novel is very good, but Edwards’ is better — more humorous, more hopeful, more ecstatic. Edwards’ language has a charm that a translation can’t match (I read Lampedusa in translation).3

One might argue that the U.S. was started by people from the middle-class, or upper-middle-class; one might argue that the U.S. never had an aristocracy. But Lampedusa would probably say that the U.S. had an aristocracy, a different kind of aristocracy, an aristocracy not based on blood, but on “the length of time lived in a place.”4

Length of time is important in the U.S., hence Americans often claimed Mayflower ancestry. Assuming “length of time” is important in the U.S., is it also important in Canada, Australia, Brazil, etc.?

Is “length of time” the only factor shaping class in America? In an earlier issue, I mentioned another factor: the social position that your ancestors occupied in the “mother country.” I mentioned the art historian Bernard Berenson, who felt that he was the social equal of anyone since his ancestors were in the upper class of their Jewish village in the “old country.”

Lampedusa mentions another possible basis for an aristocracy: “greater knowledge of some text considered sacred.” This might apply to China, where political power was given to those who excelled at literary exams. Or it might apply to Muslim society, where people are respected if they’ve memorized the Koran. Or it might apply to traditional Jewish society, where knowledge of the sacred texts was admired.

Lampedusa’s aristocrats are losing power and losing estates. New men like Sedara are gaining power and gaining estates. Sedara rose from the peasant class, and ends up in the Senate (the same Senate that the Prince declines to join). Sedara is a swindler, a type I’ve often written about; Sedara is an expert at “the finding or weaving of hidden plots.”5 Aristocrats can be taken in by these plots; they have an “incapacity for self-defense.”6

The movie version of The Leopard is impressive, and enjoyable to watch. It’s faithful to the novel, and it has a certain vitality. It’s three hours long, but it holds your attention; it’s in Italian, with subtitles; it was made in 1963. There are wonderful scenes of the Sicilian countryside. Wikipedia says, “The film is now widely regarded as a classic and one of the greatest movies ever made.” It brings the past to life, but it has neither idea nor humor nor suspense; it doesn’t move the viewer. I would recommend it, but I wouldn’t rave about it.

Lampedusa led a bookish, retired life; Wikipedia calls him, “A taciturn, solitary, shy, and somewhat misanthropic aristocrat, he opened up only with a few close friends.” Much of his time with friends was spent reading aloud, teaching literary history, etc.

According to Wikipedia,

In 1953, Lampedusa began to spend time with a group of young intellectuals, one of whom was future literary critic Francesco Orlando.... Their conversations soon turned into an intensive series of classes taught by Lampedusa. He taught Orlando English... and then began a series of classes on European literature. Lampedusa’s notes for these classes were the most extensive piece of writing he ever did; they included a 1,000-page critical history of English literature from Bede to Graham Greene, including an effort to place the various writers in their historical-political contexts. This was followed by a less formal course on French literature and some less formal studies (Goethe, Spanish literature, Sicilian history) with individual members of the group.7

Doubtless no money changed hands in this “classroom.” Would anyone in our time have such a passion to teach, such a passion to learn, so much respect for literature? In a democratic society like ours, where everyone needs to make a living, is it possible to have so much dedication to literature?

Lampedusa and his wife read aloud to each other in the evening.8 (Characters in The Leopard sometimes read aloud to each other.) Lampedusa admired the famous military writer Clausewitz. His wife told Archibald Colquhoun, “I begged him not to read Clausewitz aloud to me.”

It’s characteristic of a great writer like Lampedusa to be more focused on reading than on writing. As I wrote in an earlier issue,

Berenson’s passion for reading distracted him from writing. Berenson says that, if he didn’t achieve much, it’s due to “an intemperate lust for reading, which has not diminished but grown with the years.... It is a commonplace that the more one loves to read the less one is likely to write.” Perhaps Berenson was familiar with Wilde’s remark, “I am too fond of reading books to care to write them.”

Lampedusa was finally inspired to write when his cousin Lucio Piccolo had some literary success, prompting Lampedusa to think, “If he can do it, I can too.”

Lucio was one of the leading Italian poets of his generation; his work was esteemed by Yeats and Pound. He had a deep interest in the occult, which was then called “spiritualism.” He corresponded with Yeats about fairies. Lampedusa scoffed at Lucio’s spiritualism, and said to him, “You are immersed in the lowest superstitions.” Lampedusa’s failure to appreciate the occult is doubtless related to his failure to develop a mystical/Zennish/affirmative attitude.

As Lampedusa was writing The Leopard, he often read sections to his friends. His friends noticed “how close it came to the factual history of Palermo in days gone by.”9 Many great novels are rooted in fact.

One of the first people to appreciate The Leopard’s merit was Lampedusa’s wife, Alessandra (Licy) Wolff Stomersee. Like Lampedusa, Licy was a cultured aristocrat; at her first meeting with Lampedusa, they talked about Shakespeare. Licy was a practicing psycho-therapist, and the president of the Italian Psychoanalytic Society; she died in 1982.

Lampedusa wanted to live in the family palace where his mother lived, and Licy couldn’t get along with his mother, so Licy and Lampedusa didn’t live together steadily until the last decade of Lampedusa’s life. They had no children. Licy had been married previously; she married Lampedusa when she was 38 and Lampedusa was 36.

Though Lampedusa was a bookish man who seems to have had few affaires de coeur, his novel is filled with references to sex. For example, at the end of the novel, when his main characters have grown old, he writes, “They had had a very short affair thirty years before, and kept the intimacy — for which there is no substitute — conferred by a few hours spent between the same pair of sheets.”10 Lampedusa’s view of love is unromantic, disillusioned: “Flames for a year, ashes for thirty.”11

Lampedusa’s protagonist (the Prince, The Leopard) takes a similar view of life in general:

“I’m seventy-three years old, and all in all I may have lived, really lived, a total of two... three at the most.” And the pains, the boredom, how long had they been? Useless to try to make himself count those; all of the rest: seventy years.12

The preface to The Leopard is written by Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, whom Wikipedia describes as Lampedusa’s “distant cousin [and] adoptive son.” Lanza Tomasi writes, “Lampedusa’s readings of Stendhal had made him a disciple.” Surely Stendhal influenced Lampedusa’s approach to novel-writing.

Lampedusa was also fond of Dickens, Graham Greene, the Spanish playwright Lope de Vega, and many others. Lampedusa could read in many different languages, even Russian. Below is a photo of Lampedusa (right) with Lucio Piccolo (center) and Lanza Tomasi.

The Prince of Salina, the protagonist of The Leopard, has some loyalty to the old Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The Prince’s nephew, Tancredi, is fighting on the side of the new king, Victor Emmanuel II of Piedmont-Savoy, who hopes to unite Italy, with help from Garibaldi and others. (Tancredi is said to be based on Lanza Tomasi.)

The Prince tries to dissuade Tancredi from fighting for Victor Emmanuel. Tancredi says, “Unless we ourselves take a hand now, they’ll foist a republic on us. If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.”13 This is the most famous line in the novel. The historian Gordon Wood called it, “A wonderful line that captures the dynamics of history — history is always changing.” It has been called The Lampedusa Strategy.

For more on Lampedusa, see The Last Leopard: A Life of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, by David Gilmour. Lampedusa properties can be seen today in Palermo, Palma di Montechiaro, and Santa Margherita di Belice.

The property at Santa Margherita di Belice belonged to Lampedusa’s mother’s family, and Lampedusa spent summers there as a youngster. It inspired “Donnafugata” in The Leopard. Lampedusa also wrote about this property in a fragment called “Places of My Infancy.”

In The Leopard, the Prince of Salina daydreams about “Donnafugata and his palace, with its many-jetted fountains, its memories of saintly forebears, the sense it gave him of everlasting childhood.” The property was lost to the family when an uncle abruptly sold his share. Lampedusa’s widow encouraged him to write about the property to assuage his grief.

When the Prince of Salina is dying, he makes “a general balance sheet of his whole life, trying to sort out of the immense ash heap of liabilities the golden flecks of happy moments.” Among the happy moments are “the first few hours of returns to Donnafugata, the sense of tradition and the perennial... time congealed.” Also among the happy moments are

many hours in the observatory.... Then, the dogs: Fufi, the fat pug of his childhood, the impetuous poodle Tom, confidant and friend, Speedy’s gentle eyes, Bendicò’s delicious nonsense, the caressing paws of Pop, the pointer at that moment searching for him under bushes and garden chairs and never to see him again.14

Shakespeare grew up in a castle that had its own theater. Likewise, the palace at Santa Margherita had its own theater, so the young Lampedusa could watch plays without leaving home. He saw Hamlet for the first time at the family theater.

In Shakespeare’s day, the aristocracy was richer and more powerful, so his family had actors on their own payroll. Lampedusa’s family, on the other hand, rented their theater to the actors, who charged admission for their plays.

2. Jeffrey Meyers on The Leopard

Jeffrey Meyers, the most prolific of all literary critics, wrote about The Leopard in a short essay published in 1974.15 The essay analyzes a painting by the French painter Greuze, a painting that gets the Prince’s attention while he’s resting by himself during a ball. The painting depicts the death of an elderly man, and foreshadows the Prince’s own death. Meyers mentions other such foreshadowings: the soldier found dead in the garden at the start of the novel, the rabbit killed by the Prince and his hunting partner, the priest going to administer the last rites as the Prince is driving to the ball, etc.

The theme of The Leopard, Meyers argues, is in its first sentence, “Nunc et in hora mortis nostrae [now and in the hour of our death].”15B The theme of The Leopard is “aristocratic pride in a moment of decline, and the erosion and extinction of a noble fortune, fame and family.”

Lampedusa deals with death and decline, but his novel also has vitality, even joie de vivre. Lampedusa wrote, “Art has two constant unending preoccupations: it is always meditating upon death and it is always creating life.”16

Meyers compares the ball scene near the end of The Leopard to a similar scene at the end of Proust’s novel:

Ponteleone’s grand ball at the end of Il Gattopardo is closely modelled on the last scene of Proust’s novel, “The Princess de Guermantes Receives,” which illuminates the themes of change and decay, and the triumph of bourgeois over aristocratic values.

Meyers argues that another scene in The Leopard is comparable to a scene in War and Peace. Meyers writes,

The moving scene of Tancredi’s return from the wars with his friend Cavriaghi is influenced... by the similar return of Nicholai Rostov and his friend Denisov from the campaigns against Napoleon in War and Peace (iv.i).... In both War and Peace and Il Gattopardo the young warriors are greeted with excitement by the faithful retainer at the entrance to the great house... rush to the surprised and highly emotional reception of the large family circle, forget to introduce their weary companions, and search distractedly for their most beloved — Nicholai’s mother and Tancredi’s fiancée — who arrive after the climactic entrance.

3. Stendhal and Lampedusa

Meyers wrote another essay that discusses the influence of Stendhal’s Charterhouse of Parma on The Leopard.17 Like his Greuze essay, this essay is difficult to read for a monoglot like myself, since it has un-translated quotations from French and Italian. But it throws considerable light on Lampedusa and on Stendhal.

The Charterhouse of Parma was written in 1839, nine years after Stendhal’s most famous novel, The Red and the Black. The protagonist of Charterhouse is Fabrice del Dongo, a young Italian nobleman who has some liberal ideas and joins Napoleon’s army. Stendhal himself was born and raised in Grenoble, a French city that’s near Italy and Switzerland. Stendhal was from the upper-middle-class (his father was a lawyer and landowner). Like Fabrice del Dongo, Stendhal had some liberal ideas and fought in Napoleon’s army.

Both Stendhal and Lampedusa had good military records. Stendhal was known for staying cool during the disastrous retreat from Russia — he even stuck to his routine of shaving every morning. Lampedusa was taken prisoner by the Austro-Hungarian army; his family received no news, and thought he had died.

Then his father learned that in a prisoner-of-war camp at Szombathely in Hungary there was an officer called Tomasi who read all day long [Tomasi was one of Lampedusa’s many names]. This description made his father re-open the search and get him traced through the Vatican.... Lampedusa made two attempts to escape, the second time successfully. He crossed Europe alone, in disguise and on foot. He did not leave regular service until 1921, and when he did, it was with a very good military record.18

Lampedusa often told stories about his war experiences, and some of his closest friends were men he met in the prisoner-of-war camp.

One scholar says that Lampedusa’s mother was “an adored figure in his life, while he was partially estranged from his father.”19 The same could be said of Stendhal. Should we view the two novelists as Sons of Jocasta?

Fabrice, the protagonist of Charterhouse, turns away from society in disgust, and lives in a world of imagination. Discussing Fabrice’s career possibilities, Stendhal writes, “Unfortunately, a gentleman can’t become either a doctor or a lawyer, and this age belongs to the lawyers.”20 The aristocracy has disintegrated, we live in the age of The Schemer. And the best schemers are lawyers, because they get the power of the law and the state behind their schemes. Stendhal writes, “Everyone here steals... There is nothing real, nothing that survives disgrace, save money.”21

Both Fabrice and The Leopard find peace in astronomy.

For both heroes [Meyers writes] astronomy and contemplation-reverie are closely connected. [The Leopard’s] evasion of reality, his solitude, and his isolation from society are all synthesized in his passion for astronomy.

Fabrice is assisted in his star-study by Priore Blanès, as The Leopard is assisted by Father Pirrone.

Meyers says that The Leopard’s observatory is analogous to Fabrice’s prison tower. “We are told again and again,” Meyers writes, “that Fabrice [enjoys] ‘les douceurs de la prison’ [the pleasant hours spent in prison] and that ‘jamais il n’avait été aussi heureux’ [he had never been so happy]. When finally released, ‘il était au désespoir d’être hors de prison [he was depressed to be out of prison].’”22 Eventually Fabrice becomes a monk and enters the Charterhouse, voluntarily imprisoning himself. Meyers says that “Fabrice, like The Leopard, despises the class struggle, the fight for money and position, and the intrigues at court.” Fabrice’s prison tower, like The Leopard’s observatory, is a refuge from the hurly-burly of life, from the struggle to get ahead.

Fabrice and The Leopard both choose inaction, both choose to abstain. The Leopard despises the scheming Sedara, but doesn’t bother to resist him. Likewise, he doesn’t bother to join the Senate. One critic, Martin Turnell, says that characters like The Leopard aren’t escaping from life, they have their own set of values, and their values are opposed to society’s values.23 One could argue that characters like The Leopard aren’t rejecting society, society is rejecting them. The Marxist literary critic Gyorgy Lukacs said of Stendhal,

He depicts with admirable realism the inevitable catastrophe of these [lonely] types, their inevitable defeat in the struggle against the dominating forces of the age, their necessary withdrawal from life or more accurately, their necessary rejection by the world of their time.24

The Leopard’s “defeat” is an indictment of his society, modern society, the society that arose in the 19th century. As Lukacs wrote of Charterhouse, “The fate of these characters is intended to reflect the vileness, the squalid loathesomeness of the whole epoch, an epoch in which there is no longer any room for the noble-minded.” Meyers writes, “The heroes of Stendhal and Lampedusa are isolated from society by their own extraordinary gifts of intelligence and refinement. Because they are unique, their exceptional values and abilities die with them while the values they detest live on.” Both Fabrice and The Leopard are disillusioned with all political parties: “A change of government would mean little more than a change of personalities.”25

In his essay on Stendhal, Lampedusa said that Stendhal wanted to make us indignant at schemers, indignant at “such men and such methods [Stendhal voleva indignare il lettore contro tali uomini e tali metodi].” Meyers writes, “Surely Lampedusa arouses our indignation against the unscrupulous Sedara.” By arousing indignation, can novelists like Stendhal and Lampedusa mold behavior? Can they inspire people not to become schemers, but rather to pursue higher ideals — inside or outside society? If people like Stendhal and Lampedusa become extinct, will civilization be submerged beneath a sea of Sedaras?

The Leopard opts to “swallow the toad” and “cut a deal” with Sedara, he opts to adjust to a society that he despises, rather than engage in quixotic attempts at reform. The Leopard opts to “cling to the status quo and avoid leaps in the dark.”26

Meyers says that Lampedusa calls his protagonist “Fabrizio” after Stendhal’s protagonist. But Lampedusa’s great-grandfather (the model for Lampedusa’s protagonist) actually had the name Fabrizio (his full name was Don Giulio Maria Fabrizio, Prince of Lampedusa27). Likewise, Lampedusa makes his protagonist a star-gazer, not only because Stendhal’s protagonist is a star-gazer, but also because Lampedusa’s great-grandfather really was a star-gazer (he discovered two asteroids, and named them Palma and Lampedusa).

Perhaps Lampedusa was interested in Charterhouse partly because the protagonist had the same name (Fabrice/Fabrizio) as his great-grandfather, and the same hobby (astronomy). More importantly, Stendhal’s protagonist had the same attitude toward life that Lampedusa had — disillusioned, detached, solitary. Lampedusa’s views on Stendhal can be found in his essay “Lezioni su Stendhal.”28

In The Leopard, the Prince’s wife is “Maria Stella.” The real Leopard (Lampedusa’s great-grandfather) was also married to “Maria Stella.” And the symbol of the Lampedusa family really was a leopard (or a similar animal). When Archibald Colquhoun visited Palma di Montechiaro around 1960, he found “an occasional leopard rampant clambering legless above a doorway.”

Colquhoun says,

The various members of the Lampedusa family of a hundred years ago [are] mentioned in the novel by their real Christian names, including the old Leopard himself, his mother, wife, sons, and daughters.... Even the most minor characters, the most glancingly mentioned places, seem transferred from the existing originals.

Even the dog Bendico is based on a real original; indeed, even the stuffed Bendico has a parallel in history.

Does this help to explain why The Leopard has what Colquhoun calls an “extraordinary sense of actuality, of the reader’s being right there”? Of course, this “sense of actuality” is more than just a matter of names and places, it’s about Lampedusa’s deep connection to those names and places; the novel’s vitality reflects the author’s vitality.

E. M. Forster was a fan of The Leopard, and called it, “One of the great lonely books.”29 This is a perceptive comment. On the surface, the Prince of Salina is quite social: he has a large family, a mistress, a hunting buddy, he attends a ball, etc. Only when you look beneath the surface does the Prince seem lonely.

Forster also said that Lampedusa’s novel “has certainly enlarged my life — an unusual experience for a life which is well on into its eighties.” Does all great literature enlarge our life?

4. The Burmese Harp

The Burmese Harp (1956) is an extraordinary Japanese movie about war, music, and religion. Maybe the best movie I’ve ever seen. It spoke to post-war Japan, conveying an anti-war message, and also a message of hope and heroism. But it doesn’t speak only to post-war Japan, it speaks to mankind in general.

It’s based on a Japanese children’s book, a book that taught children the basics of Buddhism. The director of the movie said that, when he read the children’s book, he felt called to make a movie about it. This is an inspired movie.

Wikipedia says, “The film’s visuals communicate Buddhist messages, with the panoramas in land, and then the ocean at the end of the film, showing the ‘broadness’ of [the protagonist’s] messages.” The music also conveys a message; “the rhythm of that song really brings home the sense of defeat in war.”30

The theme song is “Home, Sweet Home,” which was popular all over the world. In an earlier issue, I mentioned that this song was played by a Union band after the Battle of Fredericksburg, reducing soldiers on both sides to tears. Wikipedia says the song was later banned in Union camps, since it inspired soldiers to desert and go home, rather than to fight. One might say it’s the opposite of a “martial air,” it’s an anti-war song, hence it suits the anti-war message of Burmese Harp.

Burmese Harp was re-made in 1985 by the same director, but this version is hard to find. The 1956 version is at It’s sometimes called Harp of Burma.

* * * * *

Run Silent, Run Deep (1958) is about submarines in World War II. It features an obsessed captain, an Ahab figure, chasing a Japanese destroyer that sunk his previous sub. Gives the viewer an insight into living and fighting on a submarine.

5. Biden’s Boys

Biden’s Boys have been busy lately. An illegal immigrant from Venezuela was arrested for killing a female jogger in Georgia. An illegal immigrant from Honduras was arrested for raping a 14-year-old girl, and stabbing a man he tried to rob. An illegal immigrant from El Salvador was arrested for killing a 2-year-old boy in a gang-related shootout in Maryland.

All this was accomplished in just one week. Imagine what Biden’s Boys can accomplish in a year, or in ten years! Biden & Co. have blood on their hands. They’ve opened the gates of hell, hoping to change the country’s demographics for partisan advantage.

“But you yourself said that Biden only thinks about the short term, he doesn’t think about the long term. Why would he want to import migrants who won’t become voters for several years?”

Biden wants Hispanics to support him with enthusiasm; Hispanics are a large, important voting bloc, and Democrats can’t take their support for granted. Hispanic activists want a large Hispanic population in the U.S., it means more power for them. Biden can make these activists happy by allowing a flood of mostly-Hispanic migrants to enter the country.

Furthermore, illegal immigrants will probably be counted in the census, and that will result in more congressional seats, and more electoral votes, for blue states like California that have lots of illegal immigrants.

We may never fully understand why Biden is importing voters. But it’s clear that he’s doing so. In any inquiry, it’s important to distinguish between What and Why — it’s important to see What is happening, even if we don’t understand Why.

Links to videos:

6. Ukraine

Three reasons to help Ukraine:

  1. We shouldn’t let Putin be more persistent in an unjust cause than we are in a just cause. We’ve chosen our path, we should stick to it.
  2. In 1994, we wanted Ukraine to give up its nuclear weapons, so we gave Ukraine security assurances in the Budapest Memorandum. We have an obligation to help them when they’re attacked.
  3. Ukraine has a strategy: to stop Russia from advancing, from taking over more and more of Ukraine. At some point, Ukraine may have opportunities to advance themselves. Meanwhile, they’re striking Russian ships and planes effectively. The fortunes of war are shifting and unpredictable, we shouldn’t think that Ukraine’s situation is hopeless.

I don’t think Putin will “keep going” if he’s successful in Ukraine. On the whole, Ukraine has been a mess for Putin, and the last thing he wants is another such mess.

If Putin is successful in Ukraine, I don’t think that will inspire the Chinese to strike Taiwan. I think the Chinese will make their own decision for their own reasons.

I admit that Mearsheimer is partly right when he says that we provoked Putin by saying that Ukraine would become part of NATO. But regardless of how we got here, we are where we are, and we shouldn’t abandon Ukraine now.

I admit that Elbridge Colby is partly right when he says that our main challenge is China, we should focus our efforts there, Ukraine is a distraction, we aren’t strong enough to help Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. My response is, We shouldn’t help Ukraine for twenty months then stop because it’s a hard fight. We have a lot of military equipment that isn’t being used, that we could provide to Ukraine at little cost. We can help Ukraine for just 3% of our defense budget. Developing weapons for Ukraine will invigorate our defense industry. Ukraine’s cause is just, and they’ve demonstrated that they’re willing and able to fight. We shouldn’t abandon them now.

“If you support Ukraine, then you should vote for Biden, right?” It’s difficult to predict how Trump would approach Ukraine. We know that the weakness of Obama and Biden prompted Putin to strike Crimea then Kyiv, we know that Putin didn’t strike when Trump was President. For Trump, this is a sort of negotiation — a negotiation with European allies, with Putin, and with Ukraine. Trump doesn’t want to reveal his “bottom lines,” he wants to nudge others with rhetoric. He doesn’t want the Europeans to get a good deal at our expense, to live cheaply under our “defense umbrella”; he wants to nudge the Europeans to spend more on defense. I don’t deny that Trump’s Ukraine policy will probably be flawed, but Biden’s support for Ukraine has been tepid and timid, and the 2024 election is about more than Ukraine. So I don’t think that everyone who supports Ukraine should vote for Biden.

7. Feedback

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1. On the link between Leopardi and Lampedusa, see an article in Atlantic magazine by Archibald Colquhoun, Lampedusa’s English translator. The article can be read on the Atlantic website, or downloaded as a pdf. The pdf version is somewhat different, or at least differently arranged, than the website version. back
2. The Leopard, Ch. 4 back
3. Lampedusa’s translator, Archibald Colquhoun, describes Lampedusa’s prose thus: “elaborate, allusive, has no equivalent in modern Italian and for us recalls Proust’s.... It totally ignores the new stripped style of Italian writing since the war.”(Atlantic article)

Edward Chaney discovered and promoted Edwards, and was close friends with Edwards. Edwards died in 1976, almost twenty years after the publication of The Leopard. I asked Chaney in an e-mail if Edwards were familiar with The Leopard. Chaney responded, “I don’t think I have any documentary evidence that he read The Leopard (and don’t remember him talking about it) but feel sure he would have done (since he was so very well-read and it received such a lot of acclaim when it was published and it would have been his kind of book).” I think it’s likely that Edwards read The Leopard around 1960, and by the time he met Chaney around 1972, it was no longer on the front of his mind, so he didn’t discuss it with Chaney. back

4. The Leopard, Ch. 5 back
5. The Leopard, Ch. 4. In Chapter 6, Lampedusa speaks of “the rise of this man [i.e., Sedara] and a hundred others like him... their obscure intrigues and their tenacious greed.” back
6. The Leopard, Ch. 4 back
7. Orlando’s grandfather was the Prime Minister of Italy during World War I.

Lampedusa isn’t the only great writer who did this sort of teaching. In an earlier issue, I mentioned the teaching efforts of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Isaak Babel. back

8. Atlantic article by Archibald Colquhoun back
9. The Leopard, preface by Lanza Tomasi. Great novels often start from reality. As I wrote in an earlier issue, “Most of the characters in Huck Finn are based on people Twain knew: Pap, Huck, Tom, Jim, the duke and the dauphin, Boggs and Col. Sherburn. Twain’s fiction has a ring of truth because it’s based on fact; as Twain put it, ‘If you attempt to create a wholly imagined incident, adventure or situation, you will go astray and the artificiality will be detectable, but if you found on fact in your personal experience, it is an acorn, a root, and every created adornment that grows out of it, and spreads its foliage and blossoms to the sun will seem reality, not invention.’” back
10. The Leopard, Ch. 8, “Relics” back
11. The Leopard, Ch. 2 back
12. The Leopard, Ch. 7, “Death of a Prince” back
13. The Leopard, Ch. 1, italics added. The original is, “Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga come è, bisogna che tutto cambi.” back
14. The Leopard, Ch. 7, “Death of a Prince” back
15. “Greuze and Lampedusa’s Il Gattopardo,” by Jeffrey Meyers, The Modern Language Review, April, 1974, Vol. 69, No. 2, pp. 308-315, back
15B. For more on death in The Leopard, see
Kuhns, Richard F. “Modernity and Death: The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa.” Contemporary Psychoanalysis 5.2 (1969): 95-119.

For another essay by Meyers, see
Meyers, Jeffrey. “Symbol and Structure in The Leopard.” Italian Quarterly 9.34-35 (1965): 50-70. back

16. This quote can be found in the Atlantic article, but I’m not sure which of Lampedusa’s works it comes from. Colquhoun discusses some of Lampedusa’s minor works, such as his short story “The Professor and the Mermaid,” a re-writing of H. G. Wells’ The Sea Lady. back
17. “The Influence of La Chartreuse de Parme on Il Gattopardo,” by Jeffrey Meyers, Italica, Sep., 1967, Vol. 44, No. 3, pp. 314-325, back
18. Atlantic article back
19. Atlantic article by Archibald Colquhoun back
20. The original is “Par malheur, un gentilhomme ne peut se faire ni médecin, ni avocat, et le siècle est aux avocats.” The translation is mine. Click here for a translation of Charterhouse by C. K. Scott Moncrieff. back
21. The original is, “Tout le monde vole ici... Il n’y a donc de réel et de survivant à la disgrâce que l’argent.” back
22. In an earlier issue, I discussed a character created by Evelyn Waugh, and said that he enjoyed prison. back
23. In his Stendhal essay, Meyers quotes Turnell’s book, The Novel in France. Turnell isn’t discussing The Leopard, but his remarks seem to fit The Leopard. back
24. In his Stendhal essay, Meyers quotes from Lukacs’ Studies in European Realism. back
25. Turnell, quoted in Meyers’ essay on Stendhal. In a letter, Lampedusa said that his protagonist “completely expresses my own ideas.”(Atlantic article) back
26. The Leopard, Ch. 1, “Introduction.” The original is, “Aggrapparsi a quel che c’è senza far salti nel buio.” back
27. Atlantic article back
28. Published in 1959 in Paragone, CXII, 40, Florence. Meyers refers to this essay. Click here for information about a French version of this essay.

Meyers argues that a particular scene in The Leopard is based on a scene in Charterhouse: “Fabrizio’s audience with the Bourbon King Ferdinand, [is] closely modelled on a similar scene in La Chartreuse, Fabrice’s audience with the Prince of Parma.” back

29. Quoted in the Atlantic article, and in Meyers’ Stendhal essay. Did Forster write an essay on Lampedusa? Where is this quote from? back
30. Quote from one of the lead actors, Rentaro Mikuni, who was interviewed about the movie (there’s also an interview with the director in the “Criterion Collection”). Mikuni says that he served in the Japanese army in World War II, and his unit used live prisoners for bayonet practice. back