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Casanova: Actor, Lover, Priest, Spy by Ian…

Casanova: Actor, Lover, Priest, Spy (2008)

by Ian Kelly

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Ian Kelly managed to draw a portrait of a multifaceted man instead of a usual womanizing caricature. A foodie, businessman, theater connoisseur, writer, a great story teller and overall a charming man, Casanova managed to travel more in 18th century than most people do now. While he was a gambler, crook, womanizer, and immoral individual by today’s standard, his vices were normal for his turbulent times.
There are a few factual errors that I was able to catch. While the errors are inconsequential in the big canvas of Casanova’s life and character it throws a shadow of suspicion over the rigor of author’s research overall. The author mentions at least twice that Catherine II was Peter’s daughter-in-law while in fact she married his grandson. Also I am not sure whom to blame the author or Casanova about the fact that Catherine was interested in Venice because of the upcoming trip of her son on a Grand Tour, which is historically inaccurate since at that time her son was not even a teenager, and was not allowed out of the country until he produced an heir some 16 years after Casanova’s trip to Russia. Also Ian Kelly introduced Russian princess Dachova who did not exist, probably he meant princess Dashkova(In English edition “History of My Life” that is the name mentioned). Also there were minor typos throughout the book, “though” instead of “through”, “an” instead of “as” and countless others that made me stumble over otherwise smooth prose.
Overall, it seems that there is not a great deal of detailed historical knowledge on the part of the author, but his Casanova is a flesh and blood human, and his biography made for a great read. ( )
1 vote anutany | May 3, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a very nicely written biography of Casanova, one of the few men whose names have become an adjective. The notes sometimes are difficult to refer to, but that will matter little to the casual reader for whom this book was written. After all, if one wants a scholarly text on the great lover, one should find a book written by a scholar rather than an actor. The author shows no especial erudition about the eighteenth century. The text seems very accurate, but it should be read for the joy of reading it.
1 vote marc_beherec | May 18, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
“[. . .] Ma vie est ma matiere [et] ma matiere est ma vie,” reports Jacques Casanova de Seingalt (1725—1798) in his autobiographical memoir, Histoire de ma vie, comprising 6000 pages in a dozen volumes, and now considered one of the most detailed description of ‘life and times’ in Eighteenth-century Europe. Casanova deserves comparison with Montaigne and Plutarch in this regard. Ian Kelly’s Casanova: Actor, Lover, Priest, Spy is a close reading of the Histoire coupled with research into the archives of Venice, Paris, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Rome, Prague, where Casanova traveled and lived, and in the Duchcov Castle in Bohemia (today’s Czech Republic), where Casanova spent his last years as librarian for Count Waldstein.

Known principally as a womanizer par excellence (Kelly estimates his ‘bedpost notches’ at between 122 and 136, mostly with women but including also a half dozen men), Casanova was not in the same league with his imaginary contemporary Don Giovanni (some 1800 conquests in the game of love and seduction). Born in Venice, the son of actors, Casanova grew up amidst the theater and at one time studied to become a priest. His travels took him to the capitals of Europe and to Constantinople. He met Benjamin Franklin in Paris, knew Mozart’s librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte (who may have considered Casanova as his inspiration for Don Giovanni), attacked in a pamphlet Voltaire just to be controversial. The Italian Commedia dell’Arte, Kelly surmises, may have been Casanova’s principel teacher in the art of seduction. Kelly reinforces this with his book’s organization into five ‘Acts’ with several ‘Scenes’ each and four ‘Intermezzi’ rather than sections with chapters.

This is a book rich in detail and anecdote, with supporting bibliography, notes on variant editions of Casanova’s Histoire, an index, and sixteen leaves of color plates. Ian Kelly’s other books include his Cooking for Kings: The Life of Antonin Careme, the First Celebrity Chef and Beau Brummell: The Ultimate Man of Style. ( )
2 vote chuck_ralston | Dec 31, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I loved this book! The historical figure of Casanova is one shrouded in myth and titillation. This book explores the life of Casanova and his libertine ways in context of his times and provides some perspective on the man and his image in today's culture. A host of other vibrant and beautiful people parade through these pages, as well. Casanova's breathy era is brought o us through rich, well-researched storytelling. ( )
  bookishbunny | Dec 6, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I must admit that I had my doubts about this book. An actor writing a life of Casanova? With chapter headings following the five traditional acts of classical and Renaissance drama? The more I read of this fine, engaging biography, though, the less this structural flourish bothered me. Had I first looked at the bibliography -- heavy on primary sources, examined firsthand in the archives and special collections of the world -- I would changed my perceptions sooner. This is a well-researched, thoughtfully illustrated, thoroughly enjoyable book that illuminates its subject's times as effectively as it does the lesser-known corners of his character. Result: a dimensional portrait of Giacomo Casanova, shameless self-promoter, librarian, libertine, gambler, spiritual explorer, and man of the 18th century. Even the book's design is admirable. Highly worthwhile, strongly recommended. ( )
1 vote iruzadnal | Oct 8, 2009 |
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"One life is a world entire in miniature." ~ The cabbala of Rabbi Nathan (2nd century AD)
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Casanova would be bemused to discover that he is remembered today almost exclusively for his sex life.
"I eventually abandoned the Church in favour of the army on the principle that a uniform was far more flattering than a dog collar." - Giacomo Casanova
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 158542658X, Hardcover)

In Casanova, noted author Ian Kelly traces the life of Giacomo Casanova, a man whose very name is synonymous with sensuality, seduction and sexual prowess. But Casanova was more than just a great lover. A businessman, diplomat, spy, and philosopher, he authored more than twenty books, including a translation of The Iliad. Confidant to many infamous characters—including Madame de Pompadour, Voltaire, and Catherine the Great—Casanova was undoubtedly charismatic. But how exactly did he seduce himself into infamy?

In this richly drawn portrait, Casanova emerges as very much a product of eighteenth-century Venice. He reveled in its commedia del arte and Kelly posits that his successes as both a libertine and a libertarian grew from his careful study of its artifice and illusion. Food, travel, sex: Casanova’s great passions are timeless ones and Kelly brings to life in full flavor the grandeur of his exploits. He also articulates the fascinating personal philosophy that inspired Casanova’s quest to bed all manner of women.

A riveting look at the life of the most legendary lover of all time, this is destined to become the definitive biography of Giacomo Casanova.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:07 -0400)

"Giacomo Casanova was one of the most beguiling and controversial individuals of his or any age. Braggart or perfect lover? Conman or genius? He made and lost fortunes, founded state lotteries, wrote forty-two books, and 3600 pages of memoirs recording the tastes and smells of the years before the French Revolution - as well, of course, as his affairs and sexual encounters with dozens of women and a handful of men. His energy was dazzling." "Historian Ian Kelly draws on previously unpublished documents from the Venetian Inquisition, by Casanova, his friends and lovers, which give new insights into his life and world. His research spans eighteenth-century Venice, Paris, St Petersburg, Moscow, Rome, Prague and the Czech castle where Casanova lived, wrote and died. This is the story of a man, but also of the book he wrote about himself. His own memoirs have brought him two centuries of notoriety."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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