21 April 2006

Casanova, History of My Life, vl. 3

You'd think that Casanova's autobiography would be a one-handed read, but I must say, it's not really the case. Not that there aren't some racy bits, but really, if you're reading it for the sex, you're going to be disappointed. Well, at least with volume 3 - volume 4, as it turns out, is fairly steamy.

Actually, what's really fascinating about the book is Casanova himself; the way a man whose behavior is largely immoral (not in a Puritan, you naughty sexual creature sort of way, but in a Golden Rule sort of way) justifies and repeatedly deludes himself. Claiming, for instance, the he would never want a woman who wasn't willing, he nonetheless has no problems raping several of them. In fact, most of the time, his process of seduction is more like a process of deception, duping various nubile young ladies in trusting that he has purely honest intentions. But it seems that this is just the way that society of his times worked - everyone seems incredibly superficial; the constant references to the theatre and masks are a nice parallel.

The book is a rollicking good time, actually. Despite the fact that Casanova is a bit of a bastard, you find yourself liking him, even if you don't buy into his rather pompous view of himself. Oddly enough, he comes off as incredibly honest, despite his obvious desire to make himself look good. Far more honest, I must say, than his contemporary Rousseau. There's a curious way in which one has a sense of getting to know somebody despite their best efforts.

For some reason, the book very strongly reminded me of Proust, not only because of the length. The language isn't particularly flowery, though it is lively and entertaining, but there's something about the sense of self-importance, perhaps, that recalls dear Marcel.

To be fair, I've only read volume 3 and part of volume 4 - I imagine that it could get old long before you get to volume 12...

No comments: