CASANOVA: THE WORLD OF A SEDUCTIVE GENIUS
By Laurence Bergreen
Simon & Schuster,, 519 pages
A review By Aram Bakshian Jr.
“Most casual readers will probably be more than willing to settle for a good biography that skims the cream off the memoirs and fills in some of the period blanks. While John Master’s 1969 “Casanova,” a rather attractive coffee table volume written in an engaging style, remains the best over-all introduction, Laurence Bergreen’s lengthier but more episodic new biography has much to commend it. Mr. Bergreen — whose love affair for things Venetian may have begun when he was working on his acclaimed biography of Marco Polo, another citizen of the Serene Republic who led a colorful life and was not above exaggerating from time to time — organizes his book into individual chapters named after a few of the long list of ladies Casanova made love to over the years, although making love is not necessarily the same thing as actually loving. As Casanova hops from bed to bed and engages in brag after amatory brag, the conviction grows that, despite hundreds of seductions, shackups and affairs, there was really only one great love in Casanova’s life: Himself.
And, even by his own account, he seems to have been more interested in quantity than quality when it came to the ladies. How else to explain affairs like the one he carried on with a Roman landlady’s teenage daughter who, “despite her rather too dark complexion, would have been very pretty if she had not been deprived of one eye,” which he remedied by buying her a matching glass one before seducing and abandoning her?
Mr. Bergreen builds his narrative around Casanova’s love life but many of his non-bedroom accounts of the kings, queens, courtiers, men of letters and bohemian characters he met in his peregrinations throughout Europe, from Italy, France, Spain and Switzerland, to Germany, Russia and England, are at least as interesting as his frantic couplings. You could even argue that the most efficient way to enjoy any account of Casanova’s multifaceted life is to fold down the “clean” rather than “dirty” pages and concentrate on them. They’re much less boring and repetitious.”
Casanova: The World of a Seductive Genius by Laurence .(Goodread review )