Isle of Dogs

No canine character has played a more crucial role in literature than Bendicò in Lampedusa’s The Leopard.

Great dane, 1949 © Mary Evans Picture Library.

Dogs can be surprisingly mysterious animals, especially in fiction. Browse the shelves of your local library and I guarantee that, within a minute or two, you’ll find a book bursting with canine conundrums. There are dozens, if not hundreds of them: from Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles to Agatha Christie’s Dumb Witness. Invariably, they play on the proverbially close relationship between man and dog and discover some enigma in the pooch’s human (or inhuman) behaviour. Some dogs are noisy, hurtful, or cruel; others are loyal, gentle and kind. But none is more mysterious – or historically consequential – than Bendicò the great dane, in Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard (1958). 

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