Sunday, September 24, 2006

Dancing in the air

Simon Schama interviewed in The Times.

His own favourite story is Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa’s great novel The Leopard, about the attempts of an old Sicilian prince to “change in order to stay the same”. On the last page, after the prince has died, the body of his dog, Bendico, is flung from a window. For a moment, in midair, the corpse looks like the living, barking Bendico.

“That’s what history is!” Schama cries, now passionate, not campy. “That moment when he is a barking dog again, just before he becomes dust.” In other words, the individual story is as fleeting as anything else, but infinitely more true than any timeless theory.
Here is the passage, the last paragraph of The Leopard.
As the carcass was dragged off, its glass eyes stared at her with the humble reproof of the things that you throw away, that you wish to be rid of. A few minutes later what remained of Bendicò was tossed down into a corner that the dustman visited every day. As he sailed down from the window, he seemed for a moment to take shape again and you could have seen him dancing in the air, a quadruped with long whiskers and his right forepaw raised as if cursing. And then he too found peace in a pile of livid dust.

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