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History of My Life, Vols. 1-2 Paperback – April 17, 1997

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 728 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; n edition (April 17, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801856620
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801856624
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #663,968 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This translation of Giacomo Casanova's epic memoir was first published in a multi-volume set more than 25 years ago, but this new paperback edition makes Casanova's story accessible to the general reader. Thankfully, the great Venetian adventurer's memoirs can finally be read as they were written, without the bowdlerizing that plagued them for two centuries. While Casanova is most notorious for his womanizing, his memoirs are also remarkable as they give a top-to-bottom view of European life in the 18th century. Johns Hopkins University Press has done a handsome job, packaging the entire story in six double volumes. And, in keeping with the spirit of the author, it's worth mentioning that a 17th-century painting of lounging nude woman spans across the spines of the set when they're arranged on the shelf.


Casanova, outed long ago as a flagrant heterosexual, is out again. This time he's out in paperback―the whole of his memoirs in six hefty volumes. What a pity he couldn't be here for a launch party at, say, the Algonquin... Plenty is what the book has―plenty of everything, even without the sex. There are swindles and scandals, pretentions and inventions, clerics, lyrics, and bubbling alembics, sword fights at midnight and complots at the palace, bugs in the beds and bedlam in the tavern, masked balls, ball-ups, and shinnying up drainpipes, flummery, mummery, and summary executions. All that, as the journalists say, plus a pullulating plankton field of biddable, beddable broads, through which Casanova moves with the single-minded hunger of a straining whale, yet somehow brings the whole populated ocean of eighteenth-century society to phosphorescent life. The book teems. It flows. It does everything but end.

(Clive James New Yorker)

Trask has written a version in an English fully contemporary yet remarkably Italian in sensibility. With admirable restraint and refinement, he has conveyed the zest and sensuous delight of the original.

(National Book Award Citation)

These memoirs are compulsive reading... they are the work not only of a highly accomplished seducer but of a literary artist of the highest talents.

(J. H. Plumb New York Times Book Review)

There is some [unadulterated smut], of course, quite a bit―but it pales next to the enormousness of the picture Casanova paints of 18th-century Europe: a great theater of intrigue, jostling with political emissaries, spies, impostors, charlatans, runaways, courtesans, Republicans, Freethinkers, Rosicrucians, and Inquisitors.

(Boston Globe)

Trask expertly rendered this text into English in 1966, and his is the English version to read... Compulsively readable... Certainly, few books better convey the sheer, exuberant joy of being alive and young than these reminiscences.

(Michael Dirda New York Review of Books)

Casanova is unsurpassed as the recreator of the daily talking interests of 18th-century Europe. He ranges from slut to patrician, from closet to cabinet, waterfront to palace. He is superior to all other erotic writers because of his pleasure in news, in gossip, in the whole personality of his mistresses.

(V. S. Pritchett)

The Chevalier de Seingalt was a most remarkable man, who had some of the qualities of greatness... Has any novelist or poet ever rendered better than Casanova the passing glory of the personal life?―the gaiety, the spontaneity, the generosity of youth: the ups and downs of middle age when our character begins to get to us and we are forced to come to terms with it; the dreadful blanks of later years, when what is gone is gone. All that a life of this kind can contain Casanova put into his story. And how much of the world!―the eighteenth century as you get it in no other book; society from top to bottom; Europe from England to Russia, a more brilliant variety of characters than you can find in any eighteenth-century novel.

(Edmund Wilson)

These are what Edmund Wilson has rightly called the most interesting memoirs ever written. Indeed, Rousseau, Stendhal, even Augustine, must take their proper place, a half step behind this greatest of storytellers.

(Paul Zweig Nation)

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 19 customer reviews
That about sums up this love god.
Every page is a fresh, ridiculous surprise that tugs the viewer along.
Read it in sittings, because it is loooonnnnng.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 61 people found the following review helpful By "mpbower" on May 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
Having only dabbled in the terrible Penguin abridged edition, I had no idea of the sheer heaven I would encounter when I picked this up at a used book fair.
Casanova is one astonishing man. He is a philosopher, man of reason, and man of God. He studies religion and is an abbot for a long stretch of his life. The pages are filled with his ruminations, observations, and quotes of literature ranging from Horace to Ariosto. Having a man this educated for author, in this time and place, would have alone made it worth reading.
But the scholarship just scratches the surface. He is also a notorious womanizer, probably the most (im)famous in the West. And the tales are endless, sublime, always something different, and delightfully understated. For a real hoot check out his trysts in carriages or the outrageous experience with cross-dressing castrato Bellino, who is really a woman (don't ask, just read Vol. 2).
But the real treat with this book is how GC can tie it all together with a storytelling verve that far outdistances most novelists. Every page is a fresh, ridiculous surprise that tugs the viewer along. He manages to constantly work in themes and ideas throughout the work, uniting something that would otherwise be a dizzying travelogue. The man's skill with wit, with anecdote, with the unexpected joke is remarkable (I love his anecdote of screwing up his big sermon). And the translation simply jumps off the page, whereas most translations from French read very mechanically.
"In Italy all is show" Barzini reminds us. Some have wondered whether all the show in this work is real or not. To them I say "Does it really matter?" When the show is this good, he could be plagiarizing half of it for all I care! Any fans of Italy, of the European Baroque era, or of wonderful wit and stories has to read this.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Gorilla on December 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
I started the abridged version in French, and kept thinking..."this *can't* be Casanova's writing; it's clunky, far from eloquent, and lacks style." Thankfully I was right. Though I downloaded the free version from project gutenberg (just do a google search), I was *so* impressed by this translation that I bought the hardcopy anyway.

All historical notes and translation notes aside, the content is fantastic. Casanova's philosophical musings are always interesting, whether you agree with them or not; his writing is that of one of the most intelligent, witty, and confidently masculine men I've ever had the pleasure of reading. What struck me most of all was his radically different mindset, which those who would call him "a seducer!! ahh!" would rather ignore. His success (if you can call it just that) with women was simply another byproduct of his way of thinking, which no doubt is the most interesting thing about Casanova.

This is one of the most personal autobiographies I've ever read. If anything can get you into this guy's head, it's this collection. Be warned, though...(it takes Casanova quite a few pages to issue this warning) the book is intended to be read by people who've already had ample failure and success; the story you might discuss at age 80 in a circle of people who remember exactly as you do what it was like to grow up whenever you grew up. It's honest, insightful, and gives away a whole lot of things that are best learned by experience.

Not that I agree with Casanova's disclaimer; I'm just fine reading it now. However, it's in there and it's only honest to make sure others know.

There's not much more to say. This autobiography is simply fantastic, and should keep me occupied for at least a few years.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Luke J. Menkes on November 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
Some people have lives that are filled with a certain drama and adventure from start to finish. As a young teenager, Casanova is already thinking, engaging people much older than him in serious conversation, plotting and scheming, and even taking enemies to court!
People often ask if Casanova's stories are embellished. I don't think so; he's too good of a writer, and too smart, and gives too many specific details on the surrounding circumstances and historical events. He wrote twelve volumes of this stuff - if he were making it up he would have become bored long before getting that far. His account of his time on earth rings true from start to finish, and believe me when I say: it is the story of a fascinating life told by a man of outstanding writing ability and social genius.
Casanova will come across to many readers as very self-absorbed. However, he clearly has a deep fascination for his characters and all of the people he comes into contact with. As a child he already had an intellect superior to many of the adults around him. As a man he still viewed each new relationship and circumstance with the fascination of a kid at the carnival.
If you like romance, history, intrigue, drama, with a smart and smart ass young man at the centre of it all narrating for you, you'll love this book.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Miha Ahronovitz on October 29, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Giacomo Casanova seduced 116 women and detailed his adventures in a massive autobiography written in the eighteenth century. He is the most famous womanizer in the world, a spy, a diplomat, an opera librettist, a mathematician, a poet, a cleric, a fugitive, a librarian, a gambler (he created the business of lottery), a magic practitioner conversant with the Jewish Kabbalah.

He spoke French, Italian, Latin, Greek and English. He translated Iliada in Italian He did not speak German, yet he spent the last fourteen years of his life in the Dax Palace of Count Waldstein in Bohemia. "The world greatest lover" as an old man was sexually impotent, and a broken dreamer. The servants of Count Waldstein made him suffer indignities, like using pages of his books as toilet paper. He had only the pleasure of remembering, which brought at the same time grief. German poet J.W. Goethe visited him

Casanova deeply believed in God and his faith sustained him. He never participated in an orgy and believed that pleasure should received and given equally. His publishers, Brockhaus, ironically were German, the only major language Casanova did not speak . He wrote 4554 pages in French, not Italian which was his native tongue. He died before he finished his memoirs in 1798, just as the nineteenth century was about to step in.

From now on, Casanova became an unending series of products. In 1821, a heavily edited German version was published for the puritan German audience. The German censorship raised difficulties.

French editions copied the German version. Brockhaus published in 1832 a French Edition, but French Censorship was even harsher than the German. So the French edition was published in Brussels, Belgium..
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History of My Life, Vols. 1-2
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