A Tribute to ‘The Leopard’

Colin and Livia Firth (Photo: Steve Wood)
Colin and Livia Firth
Photo: Steve Wood
“I’m sure plenty of women would go to hear Colin Firth read out of the phone book,”
remarked one of the many callers who were too late to get a ticket for last Thursday’s sell-out A Tribute to The Leopard event at the Italian Cultural Institute. It was one of our most successful PEN events ever, and unfortunately we were unable to provide tickets to all those who requested them. Those who were successful, however, were treated to an evening to remember, a delight for both the intellect and senses.

Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
Despite the obvious crowd-pulling power of Mr Firth’s readings the true star of the night was Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa himself. Lampedusa died almost 50 years ago leaving just one major work, his dazzling contribution to world literature, The Leopard.  The novel describes the death throes of the Sicilian aristocracy against the background of Garibaldi’s invasion, whilst encompassing the great and enduring themes of literature – personal relationships and how they are affected by societal changes.

Edna O'Brien (Photo: Steve Wood)
Edna O’Brien
Photo: Steve Wood
Both of the venerable speakers, David Gilmour, Lampedusa’s biographer, and Edna O’Brien, novelist, remarked that no-one would be more surprised than the author to find himself being honoured in this way. Coming at the work and the author from their differing perspectives, both Gilmour and O’Brien nonetheless reached similar conclusions; that the book in question was a true work of art which would continue to speak to generations of readers to come.

David Gilmour, biographer, and his daughters (Photo Steve Wood)
David Gilmour, biographer, & his daughters
Photo: Steve Wood
David Gilmour provided an illuminating portrait of Lampedusa and the circumstances surrounding the creation of the book. He talked of its unpopularity with contemporary critics, and the bitter-sweet circumstances of its creation – the author dying of lung cancer, having only just discovered his calling as a writer. Edna O’Brien talked eloquently and dramatically of her love for the novel, in particular the “thrilling minutiae” of daily life so beautifully presented in the book.

These speakers were punctuated by Colin Firth’s expertly delivered passages which he had chosen for their pivotal moments in the story as well as the beauty of their language. After the discussion, all present partook of the Italian Cultural Institute’s outstanding generosity and hospitality with a glass of wine in the reception room overlooking Belgrave Square.

Colin Firth & admirers (Photo: Jo Paterson)
Colin Firth & admirers
Photo: Jo Paterson
English PEN would like to express its sincerest thanks to all at the ICI for their hospitality and hard work, and to the wonderful panel who provided such a memorable and stimulating evening.

Report by Tanya Andrews

  • Click here to learn more about Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa


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Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/events/reportsonrecentevents/atributetotheleopard/

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