I finished two books one by Stephan Zweig and the other a personal biography by Elizabeth Vigée-Lebrun on her life 1755-1842. Both are interesting because they present worlds that have disappeared. Written by authors who present in their own way how they saw the world. Zweig lived in intellectual circles and died in 1942. Vigée-Lebrun an ardent French Royalist, a survivor, portrait artist to Marie-Antoinette and European Royalty speaks of her world which was sophisticated and was a life in the Salon of the Palaces of Europe where ordinary mortals never entered. A retrospective of her works is being presented now at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. Some of the paintings have never left Versailles since 1783, others come from private collections not open to the public. Well worth seeing.
I now turn to a book on Sicily, the largest Island of the Mediterranean who for 2500 years was colonized by a host of different invaders, the Greeks first, the Carthaginians and then the Romans, the Goths, the Byzantine, the Arabs, the Normans, the French, the Spaniards, finally the Italians from 1860. Sicilians are not Italians, they speak a different language, today Italian is the lingua franca. This book on Sicily is written by the eminent historian John Julius Norwich who is now 87 years old.
I have visited Sicily at 3 separate times and I wish I was able to return and visit even more of this fabled Island. One of the greatest book of the 20th century was The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, it was made into a movie featuring Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale. The Leopard is in a class by itself says Norwich and I agree. As Norwich points out a Non-Sicilian will never be able to penetrate the Island’s mysteries.
All this to say that Sicily is a fascinated place, of great wealth, culturally, artistically, cullinarily, historically and archeologically. Sicily also produces some of the best wines from Italy though we tend to hear more about Tuscany. I brought back in 2011 a large number of cases of wine from Sicily, wonderful high quality.This book by Norwich is a delight and having been to many cities all around the Island it is a pleasure to re-discover them through Norwich’s eyes. The Sicilians are also an interesting people often un-happy with the latest invaders, but suffering with quiet dignity.
Maybe this book by Norwich on Sicily will incite me to return to the Island for another visit.