In sun-drenched Sicily, among the decadent Italian aristocracy of the late 1950s, Giuseppe Tomasi, the last prince of Lampedusa, struggles to complete the novel that will be his lasting legacy, The Leopard. With a firm devotion to the historical record, Lampedusa leaps effortlessly into the mind of the writer and inhabits the complicated heart of a man facing down the end of his life, struggling to make something of lasting worth, while there is still time.
Achingly beautiful and elegantly conceived, Steven Price's new novel is an intensely moving story of one man's awakening to the possibilities of life, intimately woven against the transformative power of a great work of art.(From McClelland & Stewart)
Lampedusa was on the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist.
Steven Price is an author living in Victoria. His novel By Gaslight was longlisted for the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize.
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From the book
In his smaller library he kept a broken white rock, like a twist of coral, taken by a sugar merchant from the natural harbour at Lampedusa. In the afternoons he would hold that rock to the sunlight feeling the sharp heavy truth of it. He was that island's prince but like all its princes had never seen its shores nor set foot upon it. To visitors he would say, wryly: It is an island of fire, at the edge of the world; who could live there? He would not add: A great family's bitterness is always lived in. He would not hold that rock out and say: This is a dead thing and yet it will outlive me. He was the last of his line and after him came only extinction.
As a boy he had listened to his governess tell him the dust of Sicily came from the Sahara and this he had repeated all his life though he did not know if it was true. He imagined it blown across the sea in shimmering red curtains of heat, the hot winds of the sirocco billowing it north, raking the island of Lampedusa in its path. Each morning he would rise and walk his terrace at Via Butera, his steps traced in the sand blown in overnight, leading to the low stone wall over the Foro Itàlico and there ceasing, like the footprints of a ghost, and he would stand peering out at the rising day with his back to Sicily and the southern sea beyond it and beyond that the fiery island of his blood.
From Lampedusa by Steven Price ©2019. Published by McClelland & Stewart.
"For 20 years, I read and reread The Leopard, finding something new in it each time. It was only a few years ago, when I read a biography of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, that I realized how much his own life resembled his fictional prince in the book. My novel started to dream itself up when I understood that.
"All of my writing, on some level, is about memory. Lampedusa's novel is so concerned with memory, with the way time passes, that I must have felt some echo of what was already in me in his book — which kept me going back to it again and again.
Lampedusa's life poses a lot of questions for writers.- Steven Price
"Lampedusa's life poses a lot of questions for writers. He lived his whole life dreaming of writing a book. It was only later in life — after he grew ill — that he sat down and actually did it.
"A lot of people talk about when they retire, they would like to write a book. Lampedusa did exactly that — around the age of retirement, he sat down and wrote a book. What he wrote was a work of genius, a masterpiece and it's outlived himself and all of its critics. It continues to be read today. It's an exquisite novel and deeply moving."
Interviews with Steven Price
Other books by Stephen Price