‘The Professor and the Siren’ by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, trans. Archibald Colquhoun

Saturated with the same melancholy and desire as The Leopard, this is the story of a professor’s encounter with a mermaid. Marina Warner, in her introduction to a later edition from NYRB Classics, speculates that Lampedusa’s story is based on Ettore Majorana, a Sicilan physicist that disappeared at sea in 1938. It is a Homeric story written with a concision and voice that is impossible to forget once heard.

Included in Two Stories and a Memory, Collins Harvill, 1962; also available, translated by Stephen Twilley, as The Professor and the Siren, NYRB Classics, 2014