Casanova in Bohemia

Casanova in Bohemia Cover

Casanova in Bohemia

By Andrei Codrescu

Free Press, Hardcover, Abridged, Abridged, 9780684868004, 336pp.

Publication Date: March 5, 2002

Beloved NPR commentator and popular author Andrei Codrescu makes a stunning return to historical fiction, detailing the adventurous life and erotic times of the famed illuminist Giacomo Casanova.

In his national bestseller "The Blood Countess," Andrei Codrescu brought to life the bloodthirsty royal Elizabeth Bathory, who embodied nearly all the contradictions of the seventeenth century. Now he depicts the astonishing life of the legendary Casanova, as the old adventurer relives his life while writing his memoirs in a provincial Bohemian castle at the end of the eighteenth century. Far from being defeated by age, Casanova delights in the maidservants, reacts with intellectual vigor to the unfolding of the French Revolution, and collaborates with Mozart on "Don Giovanni." Long considered the rhapsodist of an age of aristocratic mirth, scandal, and innumerable affairs, Casanova was also a first-rate intellect who corresponded and argued with Voltaire and Rousseau. His published work, besides the celebrated "History of My Life," includes a multivolume fantasy fiction novel that predates and anticipates Jules Verne; translations of Italian classics into French; and a number of plays that were produced on the great stages of Europe.

Casanova's romantic legend overshadowed his literary work, which was, for the most part, not published until 1960. The fate of his writings was nearly as fabulous and intriguing as that of their author. Still, even in abridged, bowdlerized, and fragmentary form, Casanova's memoirs have inspired writers as diverse as Flaubert, Stendhal, Hermann Hesse, and now, Andrei Codrescu. Codrescu's vivid fictional account illuminates the interest we still havein this uncompromising and magical libertine, while it imagines how his life would have continued if Casanova's immortality had extended beyond the literary.

In Codrescu's retelling of the Casanova legend, readers are introduced to an age far less inhibited than our own, and far more interesting in its vices. At once a libertine, a defender of women, a reactionary, a revolutionary, a brilliant observer, and a visionary, Casanova was a man ahead of his time both in thought and in action. Finally, in this inventive and absorbing work, Casanova is given due credit for his writings, his philosophies, and, of course, for the amorous magic that has been made known to so many.