Letters from London and Europe (1925-30)

PDF EBook by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

EBook Description

This is a default 3 stars. Letters from London and Europe (1925- PDF30) PDF EBookThere is absolutely no reason to read this book if you are not already intrigued by Tomasi di Lampedusa.If you are already interested in him, this book may be interesting, although it is unlikely to make you more fond of the author.

The book is composed of a couple dozen letters from The Monster (Il Mostro), as Tomasi di Lampedusa calls himself, to his eccentric cousins, Licio and Casimiro Piccolo.(One of the book’s two forwards focuses on the frozen in time villa these two retired to after the family fortune’s decline forced them to leave Palermo, and the Piccolos seem to have been some sort of gay Sicilian version of Gray Gardens, mixed with Miss Havisham). What you get in those letters is a few flashes of writerly brilliance, some appealing comedy, a lot of very inside baseball gossip about Palermitano aristocracy (all of it seeming to be a web of gay allusions – I read in a biography on Google books that Tomasi di Lampedusa “did not have homosexual tendencies” but his letters are riddled with jokes that suggest otherwise).So far so good.

But you also get a healthy dose of racism and anti-Semitism (and enthusiasm for Fascism).You can justify some of this by the times – the letters are written in ’25 through ’30, so the horrible endpoint of European anti-semitism was as yet unknown, and casual racism and anti-Semitism was fairly endemic in aristocratic Europe at that point in time.On the bright side, in one letter T di L reports dining with a Jewish friend.And we can hardly have expected the author of Il Gattopardo to have been a progressive liberal.

Nonetheless, it is quite unpleasant and unfunny to read T di L’s “comic” take on an Ivory Coast royal he meets in a London hotel, including the repeated joke that he thought the African wanted to eat him, or his description of going to see the Sargent portraits of the Wertheimer family, and concluding that Mrs. Wertheimer “stank of the Ghetto” and Mr. Wertheimer might as well have had “thief blazoned across his forehead.”Fairly repugnant stuff.

And then there’s this, written from Berlin in 1930, describing a railroad trip through Kaunas in Lithuania (translation my own):“The station was bursting with little Jews come to celebrate a countryman returning to America; download; it was a highly grotesque spectacle…the unbelievable filth of their long green overcoats, the sweat which dripped from under their pomaded curls, the goaty stink, the shrill Oriental shrieks when the train moved, the women who fell to the ground beating the air with their feet, the extraordinary intensity of life that emanated from those shiny eyes explained many things, including the periodic Russian massacres of the Jews, sometimes right there at Kaunas.”Ha ha, hilarious – they’re gross, let’s have a pogrom!Will be hard to luxuriate in the Leopard after that.
I think the editors, who include T di L’s adopted son, realize the impression that that letter (and the other allusions) makes, because, despite the fact that the book is letters from European travels to his cousins in the period ’25 through ’30, they include a single letter written by T di L from Palermo to his mother, in 1938, in the appendix.In that letter, T di L expresses sympathy for “poor” Rosenstingl, a Jew suffering under Fascism.It’s a little too little, and a little too late.
Like this book? Read online this: Anti-Semitism, Kürt - İslam Ayaklanması, 1919 - 1925.

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