Giacomo Casanova was one of the most beguiling and controversial individuals of his or any age. Braggart or perfect lover? Conman or genius? He made and lost fortunes, founded state lotteries, wrote forty-two books and 3,600 pages of memoirs recording the tastes and smells of the years before the French Revolution – as well, of course, as his affairs and sexual encounters with dozens of women and a handful of men. His energy was dazzling.
Historian Ian Kelly draws on previously unpublished documents from the Venetian Inquisition, by Casanova, his friends and lovers, which give new insights into his life and world. His research spans eighteenth-century Europe.
This is the story if a man, but also of the book he wrote about himself. His own memoirs have brought him two centuries of notoriety. They have also changed forever the way we think and write about ourselves – and about sex. At the same time that revolutions – scientific, industrial, political and artistic – remade the world in the eighteenth century, Casanova created an intimate and exhaustive study of what he saw as the most revolutionary article of all – himself.
The world, and the way we look at ourselves in it, would never be the same again.