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Though bogged down by over-writing and shallow moralizing, this update of the classic womanizer and his picaresque doings does manage to move brightly, sexily along. Hardy's is certainly the ideal Don Juan for the 20th century, one who likes women, even thinks he'll find ultimate redemption in them, one who--when tossed upon the seas of modern history--always bobs up face to the sun. Born of a Spanish duchess who was raped in Morocco by Berbers but who has now turned totally lesbian in the Parisian company of Gertrude Stein and Natalie Barney, young Juan gets his start in highly-developed eroticism by growing up in an all-female environment. Sent to relatives in Spain for Confirmation, he witnesses the beginning of the 1930s Civil War; then he's off to England and boarding school. Afterwards it's back to Spain where, despite his nobility, he takes up the Republican cause--and takes up with Ines, a fiery anarchist. Franco's victory and Ines' brutal death send him back to France, but PÉtain and Vichy are the status quo there now--and this state of affairs is unacceptable to the Don; so he joins up with the Resistance and with Jeanne, a hopelessly frigid partisanne. . . until she meets the most right-minded phallus in Europe. Both are soon betrayed, tortured by the Gestapo. Jeanne commits suicide, but the Don escapes to Switzerland, joins the O.S.S. under Allen Dulles. Finally, at war's end, we see him on the verge of commitment to an English girl, Juliet--but, no, he's impelled ""to find the meaning of my life, indeed all life, in woman""; and he's off to America. Hardy puts this rake-saint through the de rigueur sexual hoops, always balancing the bedroom athleticism with a moral seriousness you won't buy for a second. Still, this intrusive preachiness never seriously impedes a windy but diverting enough story; and despite the flowery writing and the pieties, this Don does what all Dons must--he dashes.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1980
Publisher: Wyndham/Simon & Schuster