Casanova's "Histoire de ma vie"
February 18, 2010 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Remembering the pleasures I enjoyed, I renew them, and I laugh at the pains which I have endured and which I no longer feel. Of Giacomo Girolamo Casanova de Seingalt ‘s Histoire de ma vie, Kenneth Rexroth wrote: Purity, simplicity, definition, impact — these qualities of Homer are those of Casanova too. … He has equals but no superiors in the art of direct factual narrative. ... Time and its ruining passage color all the book. His sense of his own imminent death lurks in the dark background of every brilliantly lit lusty and bawdy tableau. After an unusually colorful history, the manuscript has been donated to France's National Library.

The now-superannuated Arthur Machen translation can be read in its entirety here.
posted by Joe Beese (6 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you want to read an extremely engrossing life story this is it. Bar none. If all you think of Casanova is some womanizer, think again. Don't read Machen. Read Trask. This is one of the best set of books I have ever read. After you finish the twelve volumes (you won't be able to put them down) Casanova will be more like an old friend, than a character in a book.
posted by njohnson23 at 2:45 PM on February 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

I read this when I was eighteen and was equally impressed with his writing. It's more the memoir of a faded Gigolo than an emotionally expansive lover of all women. But he did love women, and loved them well, so I'll say nothing against the man.
posted by clarknova at 3:30 PM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I read it for class once. Him escaping the prison and the tryst with the nun were great. The part where he and his friends gang rape a young woman (and talk about how she's "crying for joy", etc) is really fucked up.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:39 PM on February 18, 2010

Oh - and FYI, the Machen version was translated from the heavily censored French Laforgue version. It cut out pretty much all the most interesting parts.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:41 PM on February 18, 2010

Realized my comments above could be interpreted advising against reading it - quite the opposite! it's really fascinating, I highly encourage people to check out an abridged version if the real one is too long.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:07 PM on February 18, 2010

Worth putting a plug in for the BNF's digital collection Gallica mentioned in the post. Whole bunch of good stuff there.

If you're into impossibly obscure texts and such.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:57 AM on February 19, 2010

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