Read The Professor and the Siren by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa Stephen Twilley Online


In the last two years of his life, the Sicilian aristocrat Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, in addition to his internationally celebrated novel, The Leopard, also composed three shorter pieces of fiction that confirm and expand our picture of his brilliant late-blooming talent.In the parable-like Joy and the Law, a mediocre clerk in receipt of an unexpected supplement to hisIn the last two years of his life, the Sicilian aristocrat Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, in addition to his internationally celebrated novel, The Leopard, also composed three shorter pieces of fiction that confirm and expand our picture of his brilliant late-blooming talent.In the parable-like Joy and the Law, a mediocre clerk in receipt of an unexpected supplement to his Christmas bonus (an awkwardly outsize version of the traditional panettone) finds his visions of domestic bliss upset by unwritten rules of honor and obligation.At the heart of the collection stands The Siren and its redoubtable hero, Professor La Ciura, the only Hellenist scholar to claim firsthand experience of ancient Greek—from the mouth of the beautiful half-human sea creature he loved in his youth.The volume closes with the last piece of writing completed by the author, The Blind Kittens, a story originally conceived as the first chapter of a follow-up to The Leopard, a novel that would have traced the post-unification emergence of a new agrarian ruling class in Sicily, coarser than its predecessor but equally blind to the inexorable march of change.This elegant new translation of Lampedusa’s complete short fiction, the first by a single hand, updates and corrects previously available English versions....

Title : The Professor and the Siren
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ISBN : 1590177193
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 96 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Professor and the Siren Reviews

  • Gary
    2019-01-04 15:15

    During his lifetime, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa never received the recognition he deserved as a writer. He died of lung cancer on July 23, 1957, before his novel, Il Gattopardo (The Leopard), was published in 1958 and then went on to win the Strega Prize in 1959. "The Professor and the Siren" is Lampedusa's final work. Written in January, 1957, just months before Lampedusa's death, it tells the story of an aging Hellenist professor (Rosario La Ciura), who we find spitting "out of disgust" while reading contemporary magazines in a dingy Turin café, still haunted by his first and only experience with love fifty years earlier, a summertime tryst with a mermaid named "Lighea, daughter of Calliope." Much like reading The Leopard, I did not want this story to reach its surprising, bittersweet ending. Also included in this collection of three newly-translated tales is Lampedusa's short story, "Joy and the Law," and the first chapter of his unfinished novel, "The Blind Kittens," conceived as the sequel to The Leopard. Recommended for anyone who enjoys the pleasures of reading.

  • Ademption
    2019-01-02 08:24

    The Professor and the Siren is a fantastic story in a prosaic frame that easily earns five stars. The story reminds me of Fellini's best films. Despite being more fantastic, it captures the same sweet despair that pervades Giuseppe di Lampedusa's only novel, The Leopard.Aside to Renata Adler: Ms. Adler, you could learn so much from Lampedusa about demonstrating the despair that comes from being wealthy while still daily contending with death, decay, time and the general complaints of the human condition. The Leopard made me feel excessively happy and sad often in the same moment. The leonine protagonist watches helplessly as his aristocracy declines into dust, and the ride is joyous, beautiful and sad. Ms. Adler, your work makes me think of time I was listening to some young turk at law school complain that his dad was the worst, because his dad bought him the wrong Benz, and how this was a serious problem staining his existence. Joy and the Law is what the back cover blurb terms a "parable," despite having no discernible lesson (though perhaps one muddy principle that Lampedusa completely imagines). Joy and the Law is embarrassing. It is the tale of an impoverished, overworked accountant who receives the gift of a fruit cake. Lampedusa, who was Sicilian royalty, was no doubt amusing himself by imagining what being poor and cash-strapped but still proud must be like. Clearly, Lampedusa thought ethical, saccharine poverty was romantique, and wanted to brush abstractly against these imagined constraints within the safety of fiction. This story did remind me of a better, more ironic sitcom treatment of the same material (i.e. a rich guy fantasizing about genteel poverty): Party Down, Season 2, Episode 1. In this episode, a Marylin Manson proxy fixates on the backstage catering staff at one of his concerts. He bribes them to switch roles with him, so he can be a regular joe at a sad joe job, and he loves how bleak and rough it is. That episode is worthwhile. Joy and the Law is not worthwhile and brings down the average quality of this slight collection. Mercifully, the "parable" is short and easily forgotten.Blind Kittens garners roughly four stars. It has the nuance and mechanics of The Leopard, and was supposed to be the first chapter of Lampedusa's second novel. Unfortunately, Lampedusa died a few months after completing this chapter. There is only the suggestion of the heft and beauty of the novel that will never be.All told, this is a slight but worthwhile collection of Lampedusa's scant published work. Though I would recommend reading The Leopard first.

  • Andrei Tamaş
    2019-01-20 16:16

    Aparent, microromanul are aspecte de factură fantastică. În fapt, el exprimă realitatea subiectivă dusă până la paroxism a unui spirit detaşat de contemporaneitate (un eminent profesor de limbi clasice). Se constituie, de asemenea, o antiteză între iubirea comună şi iubirea de geniu, cea din urmă fiind o erotică plăsmuire a intelectului.

  • Steven
    2018-12-23 10:18

    In the last two years of his life, di Lampedusa wrote not only The Leopard, which I recently read, but also three shorter pieces of fiction. In The Professor and the Siren, an elderly, world-renowned professor of Hellenism shares with a young journalist an encounter with a siren in his youth—a meditation on love, loss, death, learning, and culture, this story was absolutely outstanding. In Joy and the Law, an impoverished accountant receives a pannetone as part of an end-of-the-year bonus, which his wife makes him give away to return a favor. Finally, The Blind Kittens, which was originally conceived as the first chapter of a follow-up to The Leopard, offers a sketch of the land-amassing activity of a Sicilian family and the effect this has on the declining local aristocracy. It is such a shame that di Lampedusa began to write only so late in his life, and that he passed away before he could realize all of his projects—you feel that he had so much more in him.

  • John
    2018-12-30 11:18

    Of the the three stories in this slim collection, the first, the title story, is a masterpiece. A story within a story about a scholar in ancient Greek having a love affair with a mermaid, it is a nearly perfect work of fiction. The second, Joy and the Law, is an intricate but too brief and nearly too maudlin character portrait of a poor accountant. The final story, The Blind Kittens, was to be the first chapter of a follow-on novel to The Leopard. There is a hint at the quality of the would be novel, and it is considerable, but left as we are with this one fragment all I can say is too bad he died before he could finish it. There's a lesson to all you would-be novelists: get writing!

  • James Murphy
    2019-01-16 08:35

    It's unusual for me to read a book in a couple of days, but I did with this one. It's short, but the elegant prose from Lampedusa, author of The Leopard, is pure delight and makes this hard to put down. The title story reads like folklore. It's easily my favorite here, despite its fantasy. The other two are more naturalistic. The final one is especially interesting because it's described in blurbs as the first chapter to a sequel to The Leopard, and does deal with Sicily's landed gentry.

  • Rebecca Foster
    2018-12-22 16:32

    A charming trio of short stories from the underrated Sicilian novelist. The title story, about a Hellenophilic senator who once loved a mermaid, is delightful. I love how this character keeps a spittoon handy to express his distaste for the human race, just so many “future carcasses.”“Joy and the Law” is a Dickensian Christmas fable, in which a lowly clerk gets a fifteen-pound panettone, “that reliably mediocre mixture of flour, sugar, egg powder, and raisins,” as a bonus from work but decides to give it away instead.The final story, “Blind Kittens,” rather washed over me, but I still enjoyed the gossipy dialogue. (I might have benefitted from a bit more information about Sicily in the last half of the nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth; the introduction by Marina Warner was missing in my Edelweiss download.)This collection of short fiction was first published in 1961, but is available now as a new translation from NYRB Classics. The English rendering is splendid, with memorable lines like this one: “Into the dim room slipped the sultriness of a September seared, baked, and steeped.”Now I will surely have to read Lampedusa’s historical novel, The Leopard.

  • Greg
    2019-01-03 11:34

    At the library, I reached for "The Leopard", but this book was right beside it: something I've never heard of always trumps the known. So I brought this one home. The "Siren" story is very good, a fascinating remembrance of a love story as told by a wise, older man to a young man. But the other two stories here (Joy and the Law/Blind Kittens) were not as good. There are some political aspects of all three of these that I didn't quite understand, but that's my fault, my lack of education on the history of Sicily. I've definitely spent too much time reading crime thrillers instead of reliable historical non-fiction. And it's time to mend that lack of education: I'm going to fit in at least 25 non-fiction history books during 2017.

  • L
    2018-12-24 15:17

    From the introduction: "'The Professor and the Siren' is the only instance of fantastic fiction in Lampedusa's scanty oeuvre, but enigmatic and brief as it is, it condenses many elements from both local and more distant folklore into a deeply strange, sometimes disturbing fable..."I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the siren in the title is an actual mermaid. The other two stories are extremely short, but I'm firmly in the camp of people who love, love The Leopard so I'm not complaining. Also, as a bonus this book lists a few collections of Italian folktales that I didn't know I needed but now do.

  • Lisa
    2019-01-19 12:27

    The title story is fantastic, and I would probably enjoy the other two more if I knew more about the history of Sicily.

  • Kelly
    2018-12-28 08:19

    Due to this:

  • Melinda
    2019-01-03 12:31

    The Professor and the SirenAn ambiguous tale told by an aging professor of classics to the narrator. Within the the story the reader guesses if the yarn is a myth, fantasy, metaphor, true love or other hidden messages. Enigmatic leaving many possibilities of the professors encounter with Lighea the mermaid. Fabulous tale leaving you in deep thought. Delicate eroticism splashed in description of tryst with Lighea. "Her body below the groin, below the buttocks, was that of a fish, covered with tiny pearly blue scales and ending in a forked tail that slapped gently against the bottom of the boat. She was a siren."Joy and the LawA hard working man receives a large panettone as a holiday bonus along with lira. Prior to tucking in to the cake, his wife gently reminds him they must return a gesture of hospitality to a friend. The panettone is regifted per ruling law of etiquette and family honor. A story all can relate to, regifting shared by each of at least once. "But fifteen pounds of a luxury good all at once!"The Blind KittensA story of a land baron in Sicily owning a substantial amount of land and still acquiring. A prelude of what change is to come to Italy. Frugal tactics lead to acquisitions of land by don Batassano. "The zero cost of what had been done was gratifying to don Batassano, causing him to overlook the provincial nature of the repair."Threading all three short stories is fascism. di Lampendusa pays homage to his country of Italy in each tale. His writing is simple and to the point stirring interest. Very enjoyable result. Shame di Lampendusa works were discovered posthumously, he obviously possessed a gift along with talent.

  • Melissa
    2018-12-30 13:27

    I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss. I absolutely loved these short stories and I highly recommend them.The first story is about a famous classics professor named senator La Ciura, who, despite the fact that he is an irascible curmudgeon, befriends a young newspaper reporter. They find that they are both Sicilian and thus begins a friendship between this unlikely pair. After they have forged this friendship, the senator goes on a trip to Spain but before he sets sail, he tells the reporter about an important experience he had when he was 24 that had a profound impact on his life. The tale the senator tells is passionate and descriptive and has a delightfully unexpected twist. The second story tells the heartwarming tale of a modest accountant on his way home from the office with the bonus he received from his company for Christmas. The final story is about Don Bastassano, a man who is obsessed with acquiring lands on the island of Sicily. He keeps a detailed map of all these lands which had been acquired through less than scrupulous means. He becomes the subject of gossip among the other nobles who like to speculate about the don’s amount of wealth, property and his personal habits.This is a flawless translation of three delightful Italian short stories. Once again the New York Review of books has triumphantly provided us with another must-read classic.

  • Peter
    2019-01-07 09:21

    I have not read 'The Leopard' yet, so the charms of this book are most likely lost on me. Of the three stories, the title story is a serviceable fantasy, what is of note here is the skilled descriptions of the two main characters. A skilled short story writer can describe a character in a few sentences and he does that very well here. We know who the 'Professor' is, maybe we've even met someone like this. And perhaps the student is a stand-in for the reader. Very well done character study. The remaining two stories are for fans of Lampedusa. I found them to be meandering and unmemorable. Again, I have not read 'The Leopard' yet. These stories kind of push me towards reading that well known novel, but maybe are not quite so compelling that I'm going to go read it right this minute. It'll be on the 'To Be Read' list though.

  • JacquiWine
    2018-12-25 14:11

    Shortly before his death in 1957, the Sicilian author Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa wrote The Professor and the Siren, a beguiling short story published here alongside two additional pieces: a brief sketch entitled Joy and the Law, and the opening chapter of an unfinished novel, The Blind Kittens. Lampedusa is best known for his landmark historical novel, The Leopard, a book I have yet to read (it’s on my list for the Classics Club). In the meantime, I’m treating this slim collection as an appetiser, a little taste of things to come.To read my review, please click here:

  • Julia Conrad
    2018-12-21 11:21

    I had been wanting to read this book in full for a year after reading Lampedusa's description of sea anemone's, comparing them to "the female sex". This is a comparison that sounds both disgusting and probably misogynistic, so its lasting mark on my reading memory alone is probably a good indicator that the language of these short stories--when it wants to be--is stunning. Gorgeous description of mermaid sex. That nice feeling of having ZERO idea where a short-story is going from sentence to sentence. Thought-provoking turn to myth in a politically fraught time (Fascism) in the first short story.

  • Jim
    2019-01-01 10:12

    The old man wants to eat sea urchins:“ ... they are the most beautiful thing you have down there, bloody and cartilaginous, the very image of the female sex, fragrant with salt and seaweed. Typhus, typhus! They’re dangerous as all gifts from the sea are; the sea offers death as well as immortality. In Syracuse I demanded that Orsi order them immediately. What flavor! How divine in appearance! My most beautiful memory of the last fifty years!”

  • The Advocate
    2019-01-19 09:33

    "During his lifetime, Lampedusa was better known for his perceptive literary criticism, but he did write a few pieces of short fiction. As in 'The Leopard,' they reveal a dark cynicism, solitary and pessimistic. Three of them, 'The Professor and the Siren,' 'Joy and the Law' and 'The Blind Kittens,' are newly translated in this brief paperbound volume."Read more here.

  • Ann
    2018-12-25 11:17

    Thanks to the publisher for an advance reading copy.I am familiar with Lampedusa only by reputation, and I'm glad I randomly picked this ARC. I haven't read a classic in a while, and much of my recent reading has been on the fluffy side, so Lampedusa's gorgeous writing was even more of a pleasure.

  • Michael Ladusau
    2019-01-17 15:15

    Very good. Had wanted to read this since NYRB published it last year. Liked it the first read, but thought it slight. Then read the Introduction which gave me a better understanding. After that, read the title story a second time and more fully appreciated what it was about.

  • Victoria
    2019-01-21 14:10

    a lovely story, told with beautiful prose

  • Tom Wascoe
    2019-01-03 12:17

    A book of three short stories. Well-written but nothing truly remarkable about them. Good story teller.

  • stig
    2018-12-30 15:23

    Wasn't crazy about it. Best part for me was 'Blind Kittens' which was mostly a tease, though a good one. Wish he'd lived to write it.

  • MountainShelby
    2019-01-19 12:27

    I'll be thinking about this one for awhile.

  • Chris Appel
    2019-01-16 09:32

    short introduction to Lampedusa but the real treat is the leopard

  • jennifer
    2018-12-23 16:33

    Is this where Lydia Millet found her inspiration for her latest novel? A quick, easy-to-digest trio of stories. I purchased on the credit of NYRB, but will probably go forward to explore his novels.

  • Bob Peru
    2019-01-17 15:28

    i love lampedusa's "the leopard". this volume collects his last pieces. maybe for the completist. but the first story is essential.

  • Adrienne
    2019-01-01 16:24

    An excellent little volume. The title story and "Joy and the Law" I particularly enjoyed; the latter especially is to me an ideal specimen of the short story form.

  • Alpheus Williams
    2018-12-31 13:30

    An interesting tale of sirens and seduction and the fantastical but not so much to sweep me away with the fantasy. I could not escape the author's presence or his voice...

  • Helen McClory
    2019-01-09 08:09

    The title story is excellent, the other two are a little less memorable.