Casanova: The World of a Seductive Genius

S. & S. Nov. 2016. 448p. photos. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781476716497. $32.50; ebk. ISBN 9781476716527. LIT
Few know much more about Bergreen's (Columbus: The Four Voyages) subject Giacomo Casanova (1725-98) than that he was the archetype of the libertine, the real Don Juan. His sexual initiation was at age 11. From there ensued a 50-year string of seductions, debaucheries, arrests, near arrests, and escapes (most famous, from the dungeons of the Venetian Inquisition), all described in excruciating detail in the 12 volumes of his memoirs. Casanova warred with Voltaire, walked and talked with Catherine the Great in her St. Petersburg palace. His most bizarre encounter was with the Marquise d'Urfe, who wanted him to impregnate her so she could give birth to herself and be reincarnated as a man. Each experience is titillating when read alone, but they pall en masse: he largely recycled the same set of adventures but with different partners. The result is a biography that's compelling in part, but less so when read from start to close.
VERDICT Bergreen does a respectable job, but the life he studies quickly becomes boring.
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