Today, "Casanova" is a synonym for "great lover," yet the real story of this remarkable figure is little known. Read more...
Today, "Casanova" is a synonym for "great lover," yet the real story of this remarkable figure is little known. Giacomo Casanova was raised by his maternal grandmother, an illiterate peasant. His birthplace, Venice, was a republic in decline, reputedly the most debauched city in Europe. Casanova would add to the republic's reputation. Over the course of his lifetime, he claimed to have seduced more than 100 women, among them married women, young women in convents, girls just barely in their teens, and in one notorious instance, his own illegitimate daughter.
Casanova came of age in a Venice filled with spies and informers. Naturally brilliant, he was intellectually curious and read forbidden books, for which he was jailed. He staged a dramatic escape from Venice's notorious prison, the only person known to have done so. He then fled to France, where he invented the national lottery that still exists to this day. But, intemperate by nature, he made enemies at the French court. He crisscrossed Europe, landing for a while in St. Petersburg, where he was admitted to the court of Catherine the Great. He corresponded with Voltaire and met Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte--assisting them as they composed the timeless opera Don Giovanni. And he wrote what many consider the greatest memoir of the era, the 12-volume Story of My Life.
A figure straight out of a Henry Fielding novel: erotic, brilliant, impulsive, and desperate for recognition, Casanova was a self-destructive genius. This witty, roisterous biography exposes his astonishing life in rich, intimate detail. At the same time, it is a dazzling portrait of eighteenth-century Europe from serving girls to kings and courtiers. Esteemed biographer Laurence Bergreen brings a sensual world vividly alive in this irresistible book.
- ISBN-13: 9781476716497
- ISBN-10: 1476716498
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Publish Date: November 2016
- Page Count: 544
- Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.75 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-08-15
- Reviewer: Staff
In this overstuffed, occasionally compelling, but ultimately lackluster recounting of the famed libertine’s life, Bergreen (Columbus: The Four Voyages) gives much detail but little insight into the experiences of the man whose name became shorthand for seduction. Born in Venice in 1725 to two actors, Giacomo Casanova was a sickly child neglected by his parents. He did have brains, however, eventually studying for the priesthood in his teens, even as he discovered the pleasures of sex. Bergreen follows his protagonist across Europe, to Paris, St. Petersburg, and Prague, encountering figures high and low, including Voltaire and Don Giovanni librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. There is little assessment, however, just a retelling in intimate, and often laborious, detail of the events of Casanova’s life—especially his famous love life. One notable exception to the otherwise monotonous focus on Casanova’s seductions comes in the chapter devoted to his incarceration and daring escape from the notorious prison I Piombi, after his arrest and conviction by the Inquisition. The episode reads like a brilliant spy novel. There is no end of fascinating, rich material here—but Bergreen unfortunately does not make the most of it. Agent: Suzanne Gluck, WME. (Nov.)