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Susan Swan

Why Casanova?

For the Sarnia Book Club Marms:

I have posted this blog this week for the Sarnia Book Club Marms who are celebrating What Casanova Told Me at their November 25 book club event. Click the multi media section on the home page of my blog for the song What Casanova Told Me by Alberta folksinger Corrie Brewster. The song was inspired by the novel. Judith Keenan’s first Bookshort evokes the novel and it, too, is under the multimedia link on the home page. Here’s the reason I became interested in Casanova:

My interest in Casanova grew out of an unresolved argument with a family member. My uncle-in-law, the late Jack Crean, argued that only non-fiction captured the truth of human experience. I, of course, argued for fiction. One evening, Jack brought out a new example: the 12-volume memoir by Giacomo Casanova, History of My Life, and challenged me to top it. He said the passage describing Casanova’s escape from the Leads, the Venetian prison next to the Bridge of Sighs, was the best suspense narrative in Western literature.

Somewhat disdainfully, I took away the memoir and began to read it. All I knew of Casanova was the man who been passed down in public myth. An infamous womanizer, in other words, one of those playboys your mother told you to avoid. I’d also seen Fellini’s movie, Casanova, which cemented the womanizer myth. This film is a masterpiece but it doesn’t show the literary side of Casanova. The European man of letters who had translated The Iliad, written poems and operas and essays and engaged in scientific discussions.

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