In this passage from The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, a speech by Don Fabrizio Salina, the protagonist, gives us a precious insight into Sicilian mentality and its heritage.
The monuments of Sicily's past invaders are disturbingly described as "lovely mute ghosts" who are "standing around us".
A vivid picture of a haunting Past in which Sicilians are trapped.
Lampedusa also shows his knowledge of rhetoric in this speech:
- The Use of Contrast - "...magnificent yet incomprehensible..." monuments "...not built by us and yet standing around us..." and "...works of art we couldn't understand and taxes which we understood only too well..."; and
- The Rule of Three - "This violence of landscape, this cruelty of climate, this continual tension..."; the rulers who were "...at once obeyed, soon detested, and always misunderstood..." (contrast and rule of three combined).
Lampedusa has a delayed effect on me.
Hours or days after rereading The Leopard, my admiration for the man and his work grows.
And I smile at the modest way his immense talent slowly reveals itself in new and unforeseen ways.
“For over twenty-five centuries we’ve been bearing the weight of superb and heterogeneous civilizations, all from outside, none made by ourselves, none that we could call our own.
This violence of landscape, this cruelty of climate, this continual tension in everything, and even these monuments of the past, magnificent yet incomprehensible because not built by us and yet standing round us like lovely mute ghosts; all those rulers who landed by main force from every direction who were at once obeyed, soon detested, and always misunderstood, their only expressions works of art we couldn't understand and taxes which we understood only too well and which they spent elsewhere: all these things have formed our character, which is thus conditioned by events outside our control as well as by a terrifying insularity of mind.”