London, Mar 31 (ANI): Bored and exiled in the pine forests of rural Bohemia, far from the cities and the women he had loved and left, the ageing Giacomo Casanova spent his final years writing his memoirs.
The Venice he grew up in no longer existed. The Paris he loved was riddled with revolution. Writing was, he said in the preface, “the only remedy I could think of to keep me from going mad or dying of grief”.
The book, Histoire de Ma Vie (Story of My Life), published two decades after his death in 1798, would ensure that the man whose name was to become synonymous with womanising did not vanish into obscurity.
Until now, however, the range and detail of Casanova’s sexual exploits have been veiled, first by German puritanism, then in the haze of what modern experts describe as careless, even “faulty”, transcription of his writings.
However, a new book from French publisher Laffont, coming out in late April, aims to reveal Casanova in his full glory.
It is based on the original 3,682-page manuscript, acquired by the Bibliotheque Nationale de France in 2010 for about 7.5 million euros from an anonymous donor, the Guardian reported.
Jean-Christophe Igalens, a lecturer at Nice University and a specialist on Casanova, who co-produced the book, said it reveals the notorious libertine as “a much more complex character than the cliche he has become. Yes, he was a seducer, but he was also seduced. He loved women, the women he had affairs with. He wasn’t just a superficial character who took a woman to bed then left her. He had rich relationships with women,” Igalens told the Observer.
“For the reader, Casanova is often identified with the art of reinvention. He was able to change his name, change country, reinvent himself with a different future. This idea of not giving into one destiny is something that speaks to our modern world,” Igalens said.
In 1821, 23 years after Casanova died, the manuscript of Histoire de Ma Vie was sold by his nephew to a German editor interested in 18th-century Italian writers.
But Friedrich Arnold Brockhaus judged the work unpublishable because of its immorality and the fact that the French text was peppered with Italian.
It was published only after the text was cleaned up and passages considered too coarse removed, and for 140 years it was to be the only available version, while the original remained under lock and key.
“In the new transcription we have much more detail; it is more precise. Casanova describes the women in the maison – a brothel – how they looked, how they were paid, and is precise about what happened … there are big differences between the original manuscript and what was published in 1960,” Igalens said.
The new book publishes the two versions of Histoire de Ma Vie side by side, to highlight these differences.
Casanova opens his memoirs with: “I begin by declaring to my reader that in all that I have done throughout my life, good or bad, I am sure that I have earned merit or blame, and as a consequence I believe myself free.
“Man is free, but he is only free if he believes himself to be … The only system I have had … is that of letting myself go where the blowing wind took me,” he wrote.
Histoire de Ma Vie will be published by Laffont in four volumes. (ANI)