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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Who is that fat pig?"
Casanova provides his readers with a twelve-page preface, which he wrote "because I want you to know me before you read me. Only in coffee-houses and inns do we converse with strangers." Giacomo would like to be more than a stranger to his readership and with these expurgated memoirs - I write of the Penguin edition - he more than succeeds. "I expect friendship, esteem...
Published on 3 Sep 2008 by Nicholas Casley

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3.0 out of 5 stars Boring
I just read a different book, which I could not put down in just a week I finished it, this one is hard to get into so far. I may persevere but not very pickupable.
Published 2 days ago by Penny M


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Who is that fat pig?", 3 Sep 2008
By 
Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Story of My Life (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Casanova provides his readers with a twelve-page preface, which he wrote "because I want you to know me before you read me. Only in coffee-houses and inns do we converse with strangers." Giacomo would like to be more than a stranger to his readership and with these expurgated memoirs - I write of the Penguin edition - he more than succeeds. "I expect friendship, esteem and gratitude from my readers."

But who was Casanova? We all know his reputation, but what many people are not aware of are his great literary and intellectual interests. Often described as the world's first pure celebrity, he has reason to be remembered in a large number of areas of cultural pursuit. But more than anything, these memoirs demonstrate Casanova's sheer humanity: he is so full of contradictions.

They commence with his first memory, aged eight, and the strange events that attended a bleeding nose. But whilst he may have seemed a late developer in some respects, he demonstrated precocity at an early age. At eleven, he is already responding wittily in Latin to the lewd query of a visiting Englishman. In his late teens, and already a priest, he is cavorting with a number of women from both the underclass and the aristocracy, including a suspected castrato and girls aged eleven and twelve. But throughout the descriptions of his love-making he consistently claims that, "The sight of the pleasure I gave always made up four-fifths of my own."

In whatever scrapes he instigated, Casanova often employs clever wit or innocent humour to extricate himself. And despite the sympathy that his writing imbues in the reader, his is not by any means a wholesome character. As well as the continuous sexual infidelities, he freely admits thefts and frauds practised upon the weak-willed as well as the strong.

The roll-call of the famous people he met and with whom he conversed throughout his life is impressive, and for this reason alone his memoirs are a valuable insight into eighteenth-century European politics and social mores. Priest, soldier, businessman, writer, philosopher, libertine, swindler: there is so much to this man's life-story.

Casanova is a master of language. But the description of his imprisonment under the leads in Venice and his subsequent escape are quite confusing. And yet his sexual adventures can often be quite explicit. His words are replete with epigrams: "To reason well, one must be neither in love nor angry, for these two passions make us like wild beasts"; "A prejudiced intelligence reasons poorly"; "A people without superstition would be philosophical, and philosophers never want to obey."

Casanova remembers long and involved conversations from many years ago. I often wondered about their veracity. Their telling must be tainted by subsequent experiences, and yet the words he places into the mouths of his protagonists are not at all wholly sympathetic or flattering to him, so they must at least claim a kernel of truth. Later he tells us that, "I spent part of the night and the next writing down the three conversations I had with him [Voltaire]." The editor, in his introduction, explains that Casanova carried "great bundles of notes" with him. But where did Casanova keep his notes so safely whilst travelling the length and breadth of Europe?

And there is so much humour too! From the doctor who welcomed his return to town as he had made so much money from curing venereal disease the last time Casanova was there, to his asking a portly gentleman-stranger about a rather porky lady: "Who is that fat pig?", Casanova asked him. "Why, the wife of this fat pig" came the reply! Casanova is a good raconteur and such good company to the reader. His views about the results of the Empress Maria Teresa's urge to rid Vienna of the seventh sin are most amusing, as is his clever riposte to her son about the selling of titles.

Between chapters, the editor seeks to give some flavour of the parts he has omitted. But what appears inexplicable is that one of those parts includes his fateful years with Henriette, who the editor himself describes as "beautiful, cultured, intelligent, and witty, she aroused deeper feelings in Giacomo than perhaps any other woman." Another unfortunate gap appears in his return from Poland, where the visit to his mother in Dresden is omitted, as is his removal from Vienna, and his expulsion from Paris.

One of the most shameful aspects of this Penguin edition is the complete lack of an index. And the notes by the editor are not to be trusted either. Concentrating on the notes to Casanova's visit to London (chapter twenty), the editor is wrong about Saint James's Palace being totally destroyed by fire; Sophie-Charlotte was the wife of George III, not George II; and the three kingdoms are England, Scotland and Ireland (not Wales). There are more errors, and Penguin should make strenuous efforts to correct these if it wishes to maintain its reputation. (This edition was originally published by Marsilio in 2000.)

But the editor's introduction is good, providing the context for the writing of Casanova's autobiography. He explores Casanova's literary style - part history, part novel - and how he seduces his reader to be part of his circle of friends. He admits that providing an edited version of Casanova's vast memoirs is an almost impossible task as "the paths one might take are obviously very many". There is the standard Penguin `Note on the Text' as well as an explanatory note from the translators.

But why did Casanova stop writing them when he reached the year 1774, when he would have been fifty? (He lived to 1798.) Casanova wrote that, "Nature must abhor old age", for whilst age can easily procure pleasure, it can never give it. And yet, whilst his physical appearance might no longer tempt the ladies, his writings continue to provide pleasure to his readers centuries after his death.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sad and funny and sexy, 14 Jun 2006
By 
Caterina (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Story of My Life (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
This book is so full of life I half expect to find it dancing around on my bookshelf. And it has so many merits that it is difficult to know where to start: essentially it is an account of a vanished period in time, and of different places, and a man who squeezed five times as much into his life as any normal human being. If only half the stories in it are a quarter true - well, the mind boggles: nuns, secret assignations, midnight gardens, transvestites. Quite apart from the astonishing adventures, it's a moving and sad account with a strong underpinning of philosophy. And in its way it's a morality story: sleeping with lots of women (and some men) really doesn't necessarily lead to happiness. If you haven't tried Casanova before this lively edition is a good place to start: you may well want to move onto the Willard Trask epic once you've finished this, but it would be a bit much to bite off at the beginning.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Boring, 15 April 2014
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This review is from: The Story of My Life (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
I just read a different book, which I could not put down in just a week I finished it, this one is hard to get into so far. I may persevere but not very pickupable.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for anyone that wishes to know what life was really like back then, an inescapable read!, 12 Dec 2010
This review is from: The Story of My Life (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
I will start out by saying that this is one of my all time favourite books and I love meeting people whom have also read it. To me it's like being part of the club. I suspect my fondness for this book is born of the fact that I read it when I was nineteen/twenty and some of the exploits unswervingly painted within these pages where of great appeal. If I was to read it now (seven years later) I'm sure I would not find the book as appealing and I would possibly be disgusted at some of the antics that where so shamelessly broadcast by the author.

However that being told this book is not all sexual debauchery and subversiveness of the law. This book is completely and utterly inspiring. To think that one man had a life so full and so rich, could be so charming yet so ruthless so humble yet so arrogant and so rich yet so poor reminds us of the magic in life and the special characters that provide every life with its unique tapestry.

To say much more than this would be to reveal the content of the memoirs but I feel this book opened my eyes to all of the possibilities in life with the 'can do' attitude it radiates.

There are parts of this book that are slow - a few chapters in particular I remember being difficult to read. In any other story they may have been thrilling but in the context of this book they where rather yawnish, however the reader is always rewarded with the next shocking, unbelievable or down right ridiculous instalment of this utterly great yet extremely flawed human being.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Overall satisfied, 6 Jan 2014
This review is from: Memoirs of Casanova (Hardcover)
Arrived a little bit late as for Xmas pressie, but they are very pleased with it, it's quite big book so still reading it now .
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars heavy start but stick with it for most interesting stories, 17 Mar 2013
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This review is from: The Story of My Life (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Well preference and intro was hard work to read but when you read his words it's pretty good but lots latin phrases and cross references are a bit annoying at times.
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The Story of My Life (Penguin Classics)
The Story of My Life (Penguin Classics) by Giacomo Casanova (Paperback - 7 Feb 2002)
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