Casanova: Actor, Lover, Priest, Spy

Casanova: Actor, Lover, Priest, Spy

by Ian Kelly

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Overview

"A sheer testament to the power of the written word." (The New York Times)

Giacomo Casanova's energy was dazzling. He made and lost fortunes, founded state lotteries, and wrote forty-two books and 3,600 pages of memoirs recording the tastes and smells of the years before the French Revolution-as well as his affairs and sexual encounters with dozens of women and a handful of men.

Historian Ian Kelly draws on previously unpublished documents from the Venetian Inquisition, and documents by Casanova and his friends and lovers, which give new insights into his life and world. Kelly's research spans eighteenth-century Venice, Paris, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Rome, Prague, and the Czech castle where Casanova lived, wrote, and died.

From his devotion to kabbalah to his collaboration with Mozart and librettist Da Ponte on the opera Don Giovanni, from his vast appetite for food and sex to his training for the priesthood, Casanova reveled in the commedia dell'arte. And, as Kelly posits, it is from Casanova's careful study of its artifice and illusion that his success as both a libertine and a libertarian was founded.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781585428441
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/20/2011
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 778,736
Product dimensions: 7.48(w) x 0.26(h) x 1.14(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Ian Kelly’s books Cooking for Kings: The Life of Antonin Careme, the First Celebrity Chef and Beau Brummell: The Ultimate Man of Style were published to wide acclaim in both the United Kingdom and the United States. A writer, an actor, and the director of television documentaries, he writes frequently about food and travel for many British publications, among them The Times and The Guardian. He lives in London with his wife and their two children.

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Casanova: Actor, Lover, Priest, Spy 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This biography strips away the legend of 'the world's greatest lover' to provide readers with an in depth look at a person who turns out to have been an eighteenth century Renaissance Man. With a Prelude, Introduction, Curtain Call, and five distinct acts that break the life of Giacomo Casanova into eras, the audience learns that he was a businessman, diplomat, spy, philosopher, author and translator. Ian Kelly points out the great lover wondered Europe and met the famous, the almost famous and the bizarre. Biography fans will relish this insightful look that brings much more to the dining table than just the legendary lover. Mr. Kelly brings alive the Age of Reason, the eras of no reason, and the absurd of Europe from Voltaire¿s France to the Russia of Catherine the Great to Casanova¿s hometown of Venice and his education town of Padua, amongst others. This is an excellent bio as Casanova proves to be much greater than the myth. --- Harriet Klausner
AdonisGuilfoyle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Casanova the man was larger than life: countlessly reinventing himself; gaining and losing fortunes; loving and leaving women (but always loving them, he was not a womaniser); as well as being thrown out of countries and escaping from prison. Ian Kelly as biographer is less than impressive, and the editor of this biography - if indeed there was one - should himself be locked up. Typos, misplaced punctuation and poor sentence construction make this a tedious and irritating book to read, despite the fascination of its subject; the presentation of the chapters, with opening quotes and illustrations, are as attractive as the cover, but the content could have done with the same attention to detail.As a side note, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that much of Casanova's life story was accurately portrayed by the recent BBC series starring David Tennant, who captured the spirit and optimism of the man well.
bookishbunny on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
lanceparkin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An entertaining book that's essentially a summary of Casanova's own diaries, rather than anything more academic or with more of an angle on the material. Casanova's story is a fascinating one, and through him we see a great deal of the Europe of his time. This book is probably best considered as an introduction to the man, rather than one that brings any great new insight.
kanadani on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An entertaining read and a good introduction and companion to Giacomo Casanova's autobiography "The Story of My life." Delivered in an easy to read and entertaining manner the book helped put some of the interesting facets of Casanova's life into historical context. In particular, I was intrigued about his analysis as to why Casonova wrote his autobiography in French rather than Italian or Venician Italian. All in all, the book was easily digestible and while I would recommend reading the autobiography, this was a great companion book and it really showed how interesting Kelly found his subject.
stephaniechase on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Engaging biography of one of history's most interesting men.
amanda4242 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was so happy when I received this book through the Early Reviewers program. I have started reading Casanova¿s autobiography many times, and have always been mesmerized by the depth and richness of his work. Unfortunately I have never had the time to finish reading it. I suppose this is forgivable since is 12 volumes long. Ian Kelly does a wonderful job in catching the spirit of Casanova¿s life and writing and, amazingly, manages to do it in only about 400 pages. I would happily recommend this book to anyone interested in Casanova.
jotoyo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What I expected from a biography on Casanova was something I was unsure of, but I was pleasantly surpised by Ian Kelly's handling of the life and times of the renowned lover. I particularly admire the physical book itself, which is well put together with attractive art at the beginning of each chapter (or act and scene as Mr Kelly has it). The life of Casanova held my interest although it flagged a few times, suffering as many historical biogaphies do, when the passage of time is indicated by a recitation of cities Casanova traveled through, and people he met. Aside from this, the book was enjoyable and well worth the read. Even for me, where historical biographies are almost impossible to finish, this was an easy read. Maybe it was helped by the subject matter? After all sex is always interesting, especially when not overdone.
chuck_ralston on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿[. . .] 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.
dpbrewster on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Most of us only know the prurient myth of Casanova, many know Casanova only by his memoirs. The memoirs are valuable for their insight into 18th century society and culture and mores (and oh my, the food!), but there is always the suspicion at least some exaggeration.Ian Kelly's tome provides a fuller picture of the real Casanova and gives us some remarkable insight into the truly amazing life of Casanova and his very real accomplishments.Casanova was a extraordinarily complex and well traveled man, especially given the times and given the very real danger and hardship brought on by travel in the 18th century.Casanova, born into a theatrical family, was also a diplomat, spy, intellectual, mathematician, and most surprisingly, a man of the cloth. One can only marvel at Casanova's sophistication and erudition on many of the great matters of his time.For all his deserved reputation as a womanizer, Casanova seemed to truly love women and in many ways would be considered sophisticated, even today (and admittedly, Casanova had a few episodes that were beyond the pale then as well as now). His responsibility for the children he fathered far less so. However, the women he bedded were not merely conquests. He took an interest in their lives and maintained long-standing friendships with many, as well as being the source of many acts of kindness and generosity throughout his life. In the end, Casanova understood how his life undermined and ultimately coarsened his soul (no doubt heightened by syphilis). That self awareness may have made his last years as a writer and librarian at Dux, the dreary castle in Bohemia, mostly tragic, but does not diminish the truly remarkable life that Casanova lived.
iruzadnal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago