Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Casanova by Ian Kelly

The name Casanova comes with a lot of baggage.  After reading this book, it turns out Giacomo Casanova was not that different than the others guys in his time, he just took the time to write it all down.  He did not sugarcoat it most of the time either, if he messed up, he wrote about it.  Casanova's life reads like an 18th century travelogue.  There were not many travellers back then, so when an individual visited the staggering amount of cities he did, people can learn many things from his writings about them.  Casanova wrote prolifically about food, theatres, books, plays, and yes, women.  He writes about meeting Voltaire, Frederick the Great, and Catherine the Great.  He was arrested by the Venice Inquisition but escaped from jail.  He starts in Venice, goes all over what is now Italy, Paris, most of the Germanic states, St. Petersburg, London, Constantinople, just an amazing number of locales in a time when the vast majority of humans stayed put.

This was a very enjoyable read.  Ian Kelly obviously spent years combing through the letters and books Casanova left behind and even fact checked them making sure people were where he said they were throughout the 18th century.  I learned a lot about 18th century travel and European states of affairs from this book, but it certainly can be shocking with the intense detail of some of his female conquests.

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