translated by Catherine Temerson, Farrar, Straus and Giroux ed.
« Between Casanova’s time and ours stretch two centuries of ignorance and misunderstanding. This remarkable man has been thought of as a Don Juan of the salons, cold and indifferent to women, but in this new book Lydia Flem rediscovers him as he really was, an ardent man of the Enlightenment, a true friend and lover of women. In Paris, Rome, Berlin, St. Petersburg, and London, this comedians’ child could be found in aristocratic milieus or low dives, in convent alcoves, at gaming tables and in the libraries of the philosophes: Casanova was everywhere and knew everyone. A generous, spirited man, he gave of himself without stint, and men and women alike rejoiced in his company. He was learned, amusing, helpful, wise – and something of a scoundrel, for in the class-bound European circles he moved in, he was always on the point of being « found out » as an impostor, a low-born nobody. He hated the snobbery but he loved his freedom. Ms. Flem gives a deliciously entertaining account of Casanova’s adventures with women young and old (sometimes mother and daughter), with friends both fierce and loyal, interspersing her own witty narrative with quotations of apt passages from Casanova’s amazing memoirs – which he wrote when, slowed by old age and illness, he was exiled from Venice and living in a Bohemian castle. »