A magic name, a publishing event: Casanova's Memoirs, finally presented in an unexpurgated edition (the first two of the...

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HISTORY OF MY LIFE

A magic name, a publishing event: Casanova's Memoirs, finally presented in an unexpurgated edition (the first two of the twelve volumes printed here, with the others to follow in subsequent seasons), translated with flair and honesty, a long-needed corrective to the bowdlerized version circulating since the last century. This reviewer had read, in one anthology or another, excerpts from the text, but these passages, though elegant and tangy, do not, it seems, really prepare one for the commanding shape of Casanova's narrative, which taken in proper order surges with the panoramic vitality of one of those king-sized European classics, offering as well its prized possession, crisp, sensuous details, rakishly carried off with manly, unaffected lyricism. ""The great lover as he saw himself""--so runs a publicity release. Yet that narrowly conceived slogan misleads. For Casanova was something more than just an 18th century Venetian stud given to introspective musings--in fact, he was not that at all. Travel, intrigue, an adventurous mind crashing social, political, and ecclesiastical gates, erudite in most matters, successfully pretending expertise in others, gambling in high places and low, collecting patrons, feeding his literary bent--these filled his days and formed his character quite as much as midnight exercise. Nor was he a philosophe of the boudoir; unlike Sade, his contemporary, what is truly striking about Casanova is the spontaneity, the immediacy of his appetites, so unusual for a cultivated nature. Reading the journal one fancies one sees the author as the father of the Stendhalian hero to come, the ambitious, attractive parvenu., but without any crippling guilt concerning his origins, and thus without any aggressions. A self-delighting free spirit--what a rarity today.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 1966

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1966