From The Fable of Casanova (1934)
By ADRIAN TAHOURDIN
There’s a wonderful review by David Coward in this week’s TLS of a new French edition of Giacomo Casanova’s Histoire de ma vie. Coward gives us as rounded a portrait of the Venetian adventurer as we could hope for in 2,500 words.
As Coward reminds us, the book runs to well over a million words and was written in Italianate French, French being the lingua franca of eighteenth-century Europe. There is an English translation in print entitled History of My Life, single-handedly completed by the heroic American scholar Willard R. Trask. It first appeared in six substantial annotated volumes in the 1960s, and seems unlikely to be superseded.
History of My Life is generally reckoned to be one of the great eighteenth-century autobiographies, ranked alongside Rousseau’s Confessions. The great American critic Edmund Wilson called it the “most interesting memoirs ever written”.